Abbott read History at Newnham while Beard read ClassicsDiane Abbott (Twitter)

MP Diane Abbott has tweeted a photo of herself and Professor Dame Mary Beard in the 1973 Newnham College freshers’ cohort, remarking at “two young women with their lives ahead of them”.

Abbott, the shadow home secretary, was the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons, becoming MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1987 after reading History at Newnham. A backbencher for much of her career, Abbott has served in a number of frontbench roles since 2010 including as Shadow Minister for Public Health and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.


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Beard, a prominent classicist and fellow at Newnham, joined the Faculty of Classics in 1984, becoming the only female lecturer in the faculty at the time. Earlier this month, Beard was appointed Dame Commander in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Beard responded to the tweet by saying that, at the time of the photo, she felt “terrified and simultaneously overconfident”, with Abbott replying that she too was “a combination of being both terrified and fearless”.

Replying to their alumnae, Newnham tweeted that their current students are a “wonderful bunch” and that they believe they will be as “bright, brilliant, and determined” as the likes of Abbott and Beard.

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