Queer Places:
University of Cambridge, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ
Lucy Cavendish College, Lady Margaret Rd, Cambridge CB3 0BU
Langdon House, 1 Scotland Road, Chesterton, Cambridge CB4 1QE

Anna McClean Bidder

by Julia Hedgecoe
bromide print, 1997
15 3/8 in. x 11 1/2 in. (391 mm x 292 mm)
Purchased, 1999
Primary Collection
NPG P751(4)Anna McClean Bidder (4 May 1903 – 1 October 2001[1]) was an English zoologist and academic. She was co-founder and first President of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge.[1]

Anna Bidder was born in Cambridge. Her father, George Parker Bidder III, a zoologist, was president of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, and grandson of the noted engineer and calculating prodigy also named George Parker Bidder.[1][2] Her mother, Marion Bidder, had been a pioneering woman student before teaching physiology and botany at Girton and Newnham colleges.[3] Bidder was educated at the Perse School for Girls, and then went on to study Zoology for a year at University College, London. She returned to Cambridge in 1922 to read Natural Sciences at Newnham College.[4] Her elder sister had chosen to study at Girton, the only other women's college in Cambridge at the time, and their mother wished to send one daughter to each.[5] Bidder changed her subject to Zoology partway through her studies, and graduated in 1926.[4][5] Bidder obtained her Ph.D. from Cambridge in 1933.

She published several academic papers in her career as a zoologist, and worked for a time in Basel. In 1950 or 1951, she and two friends, Kathleen Wood-Legh and Margaret Braithwaite, formed the "Dining Group" for female academics in Cambridge who were not Fellows at colleges. As well as social gatherings, they had the eventual aim of attracting a core of academics to establish a new female graduate college. This group continued for fourteen years, meeting first in the Copper Kettle restaurant and other restaurants around Cambridge, then later in Gonville and Caius College's Harvey Court.[6][7] This led eventually to the founding of the Lucy Cavendish Collegiate Society for mature female students in 1965. Bidder was President of the college from its foundation until her retirement in 1970. Her Quaker beliefs led to her involvement in the publication of the somewhat controversial 1963 pamphlet, Towards a Quaker View of Sex, which aimed to take a new view of the changing sexual mores of the time.[8]

The Cambridge Young Friends gathered on Sunday nights in the home of Bidder. Later she organized a group of prominent Quakers to discuss homosexuality--its problems and how professionals could best respond. This group of eleven Friends included psychiatrists and psychologists, as well as headmasters and teachers in schools. As far as is known, only one of them, Keith Wedmore, was gay. They met every fortnight, originally to discuss homosexuality. But they soon realised they could not discuss its ethic without re-examining the entire traditional Christian view of sex, whether gay or straight.

After seven years, 1957-1963, they published Towards a Quaker View of Sex. This was the first time a Christian body was positive about gay love. Wedmore handled the group’s finances and was the writer of the first draft of the chapter on homosexuality. After the 1963 publication, Wedmore and the other group members were in demand to speak to Friends Meetings and other groups. The essay sold a half million copies. Wedmore took it out of print some ten years ago when be discovered that a hostile group had got hold of it, distributing censored copies as if they were by the authors.

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