explore The First Baby

4 December 2019

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It is 40 years since the admission of the first undergraduate women to Emmanuel, but ensuring equality across the college community has involved many more firsts.  Former Emma Research Fellow, Dr Rachel Polonsky, tells her story. 

Two women standing close together: left–hand woman is in her early 20s, has glasses and has long brown hair, the right–hand woman is in her 40s and has blond hair. They are standing in the sun and smiling.My years as a Research Fellow at Emmanuel from 1994 to 1998 were essential to establishing my scholarly career. At Emmanuel I wrote my first book, English Literature and the Russian Aesthetic Renaissance (Cambridge 1998) and found inspiration for my second, Molotov’s Magic Lantern (Faber, 2010). After Emmanuel, I spent ten years in Moscow, Russia, working as a writer and independent scholar, before returning to academic life in Cambridge. I am now an Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of Slavonic Studies & a Fellow of Murray Edwards College, where I took up office as Vice President in Michaelmas 2019. I treasure my continuing involvement with Modern Linguists at Emmanuel as Director of Studies for Russianists.

During my time at Emmanuel, I gave birth to my third daughter, Cecily. She was the first baby born to a woman Fellow of the College. Her advent in 1997 prompted the Governing Body to create a maternity leave policy for Research & College Teaching Fellows. The Governing Body deliberations set in motion by Cecily’s arrival painstakingly ironed out various complications over the interpretation & implementation of this policy. It culminated in February 1999 in a new Statute (XVI.4), which guarantees that women Research Fellows will not be disadvantaged if they become mothers.

This summer, Cecily graduated from Princeton in Comparative Literature, and began work as a first–grade teacher in Brooklyn. (Above: Rachel [R] & Cecily [L] at her graduation). I am proud of Emmanuel’s respect for tradition and openness to change, and lastingly grateful for my happy years at the College.

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