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How do you get into the University if you are the only woman?

Start at the beginning: 1636...

The city of Utrecht needs well-educated protestant preachers, lawyers and doctors. To this end, the Illustrious School was founded, a men-only institute. On March 26, 1636, the provincial council elevated it to the University of Utrecht. We still celebrate this day in Utrecht.

Voetius & Anna Maria

The foundation of the University was a festive occasion. One of the professors of theology and later the rector of the University, Gisbertus Voetius, read out loud from the bible to bless the University. He was also allowed to invite intelligent fellow townsmen to speak on the day. One of those people was Anna Maria van Schurman, who for years lived opposite him on the Dom Square.

With a poem...

Anna wrote the poem 'On het Sermon'. But Voetius also asked her to write a poem in Latin. In this poem she was critical: why is the University inaccessible to women? She ends the poem with the University motto: Sol iustitiae illustra nos ('May the Sun of Righteousness Enlighten Us'). Enlighten everyone, so also women.

The only woman attending lectures...

After the publication of her poems Anna Maria was admitted to the male-dominated University. She followed lectures inside a separate booth, behind a curtain. It may sound strange, but men and women regularly sat separately in those days. In church, for example, so as not to be distracted by the other sex.

So what did she study...?

Prior to the founding of the University, Anna Maria had already gained proficiency in many languages. She also knew a lot about history, poetry, philosophy, psychology, medicine and theology, in particular. On top of that she was artistic, played music, practised calligraphy (also on glass like on the photo), drawing, painting, woodwork and moulding. At the time, there were not as many faculties at the university as there are nowadays. She studied medicine, languages and theology.

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