• Reading Level 5

Age 17 – 18: Winner

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Thea Hamor, Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School

Winner of the 17 – 18 age category, Celebration Day writing competition 2022

All around her, voices chattered as people with short cropped hair and trousers hurried past her, creating a stream of unfamiliarity that she couldn’t help but be caught up in. Margaret adjusted her skirt, trying to ignore the voice telling her that she didn’t belong here. Whether that voice was in her head or not, she didn’t know. Bracing her shoulders and telling that voice to bury itself deep in a hole somewhere far away from her, she walked inside the entrance to Saint James’ school for boys. 

It was difficult at first, stuck in that world of boys and all of their odd quirks, but she ignored it in favour of the more important thing, the reason she was here in the first place – the science facilities. 

Being only for girls, Margaret’s old school hadn’t had much by way of science. Needlework, sure. Deportment and elocution, absolutely, but the pathetic excuse for a biology classroom did not live up to the standards set by this wonderful new place.

Her parents had fought so hard for her to have this opportunity, so, she thought, shrugging past the taunting glares as she made her way into her first chemistry lesson, that she could deal with this.

The years passed, and Margaret continued to study, moving into more advanced classes at a mixed sixth form, allowing her a brief respite from the jeers of the boys she had long since learned to ignore. With sixth form came the prospect of university, and she set her hopes high. Cambridge was the aim, and she rose to that challenge. She passed her HSC examination with flying colours, and so stepped warily into the world of academia. 

Cambridge has and always will be a tough environment, especially for a woman in science in the early 1950s who grew up in the north east. It was a long road, earning the respect of her peers and professors, and it was exhausting knowing that she had to try twice as hard for the same result, just because she was a woman. Just because of her sex, she was perceived as weak and unintelligent. Her course was dominated by males, all of them arrogant and sneering, just like the boys at Saint James. But she knew how to deal with these sorts of people.

She graduated from Cambridge university with top marks, and then went back to do her masters. Two PHDs in crystallography, and a similarly scientifically minded husband later, she was ready to settle down to an illustrious career lecturing. 

Later on, Margaret always taught her children to be independent and curious, impressing upon them from a young age that they should never rely on a man for money, and that they should always pursue what they loved, no matter the opposition from a world that is not yet ready to accept that. Her daughters went on to follow that advice, becoming successful in their own fields and following in Margaret’s brave and inspiring footsteps.

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