Vickery, Margaret Birney 1963–

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VICKERY, Margaret Birney 1963–

PERSONAL: Born 1963; married Peter Vickery (an attorney); children: two. Education: Oberlin University, received degree, 1985; Stanford University, Ph.D., 1993.

ADDRESSES: Home—190 University Dr., Amherst, MA 01002-3818.

CAREER: Architectural historian and author. Worked for Victorian Society, London, England; lecturer on Victorian architecture and the arts and crafts movement.


Buildings for Bluestockings: The Architecture and Social History of Women's Colleges in Late Victorian England, University of Delaware Press (Newark, DE) 1999.

SIDELIGHTS: Margaret Birney Vickery is an architectural historian and author whose debut book, Building for Bluestockings: The Architecture and Social History of Women's Colleges in Late Victorian England, examines the trends in building design for university dormitories that were intended for the use of women. College housing for men followed a standard structure throughout England, with stacked staircases that led to each room. However, when women first began to gain admittance to degree programs and the universities undertook providing housing for these new students, a more domestic, house-like architecture was employed. Vickery focuses her study on six colleges that were among the first to admit women: Girton and Newnham at Cambridge University, Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville at Oxford, and Westfield and Royal Holloway, London. These dormitories were designed with private rooms off of hallways instead of stairs, and they tended to be smaller than their counterparts built for men. J. Mordaunt Crook commented in a review for the Times Literary Supplement that "the author's scrutiny of elevations and plans reinforces the view that there was indeed a women's collegiate style, understated … communal and—the word continues to recur—domestic."

Vickery focuses on the way traditional expectations of women's roles in society came into play in the architectural decisions, even as the women in question were making strides toward greater equality in society. Crook went on to note that "if women had to leave home for the purposes of higher education, then at least they should live like ladies." In her review for Journal of Women's History, Valerie S. Rake found fault with Vickery's decision to narrow the scope of her study to gender, stating that "she does not … explore the class, race, or sexual implications of these projects." Instead, Vickery concentrates on more conventional influences, making a point to acknowledge that factors such as under-funding and compromise also affected the final outcome of the architectural designs. William Whyte, in a review for the English Historical Review, stated that Vickery "forces histori-ans to re-examine their understanding of these colleges, and to reassess the role of building in expressing ideas and identity. No one interested in nineteenth-century architecture or education can afford to ignore this book."



English Historical Review, September, 2000, William Whyte, review of Buildings for Bluestockings: The Architecture and Social History of Women's Colleges in Late Victorian England, p. 1011.

Journal of Women's History, summer, 2001, Valerie S. Rake, review of Buildings for Bluestockings, p. 221.

Oberlin Alumni, winter, 2000, review of Buildings for Bluestockings.

Times Literary Supplement, August 16, 2000, J. Mordaunt Crook, "Staging Posts for Heroic Women."


Peter Vickery's Home Page, (July 26, 2005).