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Theodora Cooper

(Zoology, 1949)
Imperial College alumnus, Theodora Cooper nee Bamber (Zoology 1949), shares her memories of her time at Imperial College whilst studying Zoology.

I came to Imperial in October 1945 to read Zoology. With the end of war, I believe 90 per cent of places were rightly for ex-service types. So there was a mixture of young and mature, sophisticated students. I think there were only 23 female students my first year and 48 the second year. I came into the hostel my second year, the women's part was on one side of the men's hostel and I think there were seven women's rooms on each floor, with an electric ring for making cocoa at the end of the corridor. The bathrooms were at the end of the men's corridor. For our meals we bought tickets, breakfast at 8d or l/3d - I had to have the 8d one with tea and toast, ad lib! Lunch and the Evening meal were l/3d.

If we had a birthday Miss Trimble (I think her name was) in charge of catering of the hostel, would make us a birthday cake and we'd celebrate up in our rooms. Remember there was strict rationing in those days.

The social life was very strong, every Saturday we'd have a hop, and of course there were plenty of dates for us! There were also a number of formal occasions when we all got dressed up in our long evening gowns. The Imperial College Women's Association would have a formal dinner and invite a well known person to speak to us. I remember Myra Hess (pianist), Dame Laura Knight (artist) and Peter Scott (naturalist), all coming. One of us would be chosen to propose thanks.

We started up a netball team and I remember some of us, with permission, painted the lines for a netball court in the quad - it was quite an effort! Then when we played the men, one of them, I think he was a rugger player, nearly knocked me out but it was a good game! I don't think we played them again though!

The women were quite a sporty lot, and in spite of our lack of numbers I remember we won the London University Inter Collegiate Tennis Cup - I think it was probably 1948, and I have photos showing us. We were: Liz Canning, Margaret Illingworth, Joan Spencer, Marie Antony, Mary Meyer and myself, Theodora Bamber. Of course the cup was filled with champagne and we really celebrated at the next Saturday hop. The Women's Athletic Club was also active - we won the London University Sports cup at Motspur Park in May 1949 with Joan Slow, June Mahon, Margaret Evenett, Avis Vinnicombe and myself. I've still got my Imperial College full colours scarf, but the blazer has long since disappeared. I remember it cost £7 and I had a job to finance it.

Incidentally I'm the student to the left of Queen Elizabeth in the photo in Imperial Matters (Issue 27, Page 11), and Joan Bridges is on my right. And we did have a wonderful time at the Royal Albert Hall. Tremendous times! I remember when Princess Elizabeth was married, a crowd of us from the hostel sallied forth at about 2am, together with food, a brazier with fuel etc to stake a plot in Whitehall and we had a wonderful view.

I look back, I'm now 80 years old - with the greatest affection of the time I spent at Imperial - there was a wonderful spirit and to a young girl, a Baptist Minister's daughter who had lived a rather sheltered life, it was another world of not just the social life but of making deep friendships and finding out the satisfaction of learning.

Theodora Cooper nee Bamber (Zoology 1949)

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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