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Home > Outreach > McGill History Portal > McGill History > McGill Facts and Institutional History (p.2) : Royal Victoria College
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Royal Victoria College Women’s education at McGill began in 1884, when Donald Smith "Lord Strathcona" provided funding for separate lectures at the University, given by McGill staff members, for the benefit of women. Four years later, the Donalda Department was established, and women were able for the first time to enroll on a full-time basis. The education of Donaldas, named after their benefactors, flourished so much that twelve years later, they gained their own institution: the Royal Victoria College.

Exterior view of Royal Victoria College as seen from Sherbrooke and University Streets with cars in front. (photo ca. 1948). MUA PR039971. Exterior, Royal Victoria College residence. (photo ca. 1965). MUA PU019387.

Erected in 1899 thanks to Lord Strathcona’s donation of Ł50,000, the building was a self-contained unit, serving as both dormitory and educational facility until 1971, when the original, central section and the eastern wing were given to the Faculty of Music. RVC’s westernmost wings, the Vaughan wing (built, on the corner of University and Sherbrooke Streets, in 1931) and the Roscoe wing (set further back on University Street in 1964), continued to serve their function as McGill’s only all-female residence.

Library of Royal Victoria College. (photo ca. 1903). MUA PL006770. Interior view of students room in Royal Victoria College. (photo ca. 1903). MUA PL006771. Parlor of Royal Victoria College. (photo ca. 1903). MUA PL006776.

Living in RVC has always meant belonging to a tight-knit community of women, particularly in the college’s earliest years, when it was the center of women’s education at McGill. Music, athletics and academic societies flourished, entirely separate from parallel activities undertaken by the university men. As time went on, into the 1930s and ‘40s, women students "made a place for themselves on the Campus at large and became active co-educationally," wrote Muriel Roscoe, Warden of RVC from 1940 to 1963. Today, women are fully integrated into McGill academics, but until the 1970s, every female undergraduate at the University was nominally a member of Royal Victoria College.

Six female students on steps of Royal Victoria College, going skiing at Shawbridge in Laurentians. Cartoon colouring by "Bee Tweedie". (photo 1927). MUA PU038149. "Freshies" of class of 1930 gather for a midnight chat in a Royal Victoria College bedroom. (photo 1926). MUA PU038165.




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