Sutherland, Lucy Stuart (1903–1980)

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Sutherland, Lucy Stuart (1903–1980)

Australian-born English historian and administrator. Name variations: Dame Lucy Sutherland. Born Lucy Stuart Sutherland in Geelong, Australia, on June 21, 1903; died at her home in Oxford, England, on August 20, 1980; daughter of Alexander Charles Sutherland (a mining engineer) and Margaret Mabel (Goddard) Sutherland; educated at Roedean School and the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa; graduated from Somerville College, Oxford; never married.

Born in 1903 in Geelong, Australia, the only daughter of Alexander and Margaret Goddard Sutherland , Lucy Stuart Sutherland spent most of her young life in South Africa. She attended the Roedean School in Johannesburg and later the University of Witwatersrand, where she earned a scholarship to Somerville College of Oxford University. In addition to her excellent scholarly work in history, in 1926 Sutherland became the first woman to address the Oxford Union in a speech supporting women's colleges. Upon graduating a year later, she accepted a position as a tutor at Somerville, which led quickly to a tutorial fellowship.

Although a noted scholar of 18th-century history, Sutherland accepted a principalship in the Board of Trade in 1941, in the early years of World War II, rising to the rank of assistant secretary by 1945. She returned to Oxford in 1945 and was considered for the post of principal at both Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall, accepting the latter. Sutherland found great satisfaction in this role as the school doubled in size under her administration, including the construction of several new buildings. Her prominence within the Oxford community increased when she became the pro-vice-chancellor of the university from 1961 to 1969, the first woman to assume such a position. Other British universities recognized her accomplishments with honorary degrees. She retired in 1971.

Sutherland's historical interests focused primarily on prominent institutions in the 18th century. Her publications include The East India Company in Eighteenth Century Politics (1952) and a significant study of Oxford University during that time period, on which she worked during the last decade of her life. She also edited part of The Correspondence of Edmund Burke in 1960, and cooperated in the preparation of History of Parliament. Sutherland was named a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1947, a Dame of the British Empire (DBE) in 1969, and received a fellowship at the British Academy in 1954. She died at her home on August 20, 1980.


The Dictionary of National Biography, 1971–1980. Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont

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