Durham University first awarded degrees to women in 1895. For Armstrong College in Newcastle (now Newcastle University) the war brought many challenges. The Armstrong building, the Hatton gallery and surrounding buildings and area were taken over to accommodate a military hospital and the college was forced to use buildings around the town for lectures and teaching, including the Lit & Phil. But for women there was a brighter note. The first hostel to house women students, Easton Hall was opened. The hostel was funded through a bequest to Armstrong College by Emily Easton. Emily Easton died in 1913 aged 95 years, She was a woman of property . Some of her wealth came from coal mining, amongst others the family owned Oakwellgate Collliery in Gateshead.
Easton Hall opened on Thursday June 8th 1916 in Eskdale Terrace in Jesmond. The Vice Chancellor of Durham Unversity and Principal of Armstrong College, Dr Hadow, made a speech and stressed the growing importance of women in England, “who were not only entering into every kind of occupation, but were doing the work as well, at least, as the men whose places they were taking..” (Daily Journal June 8 1916). Training he felt was of the utmost importance and the hostel would certainly develop this. A relative of Miss Easton’s presented the college with a portrait of her. Easton Hall still exists although it is now student flats.
It was not until 1917 that the first woman professor was appointed to Durham University, Miss Elisabeth Stevenson became Deputy Professor of Economics in Armstrong College.