"Steamboat ladies" was a nickname given to a number of female students at the women's colleges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge who were awarded ad eundem University of Dublin degrees at Trinity College Dublin, between 1904 and 1907, at a time when their own universities refused to confer degrees upon women. The name comes from the means of transport commonly used by these women to travel to Dublin for this purpose.
Trinity opened its doors to female students in 1904. Unlike Oxford and Cambridge, where women had for some years been admitted to separate female colleges within the overall university, both men and women would be admitted to the University of Dublin's only college (Trinity) and it was felt there would be no rationale to restrict successful female students from graduating to become members of the university like their male counterparts. In accordance with the long-standing formula of ad eundem mutual recognition that existed between Dublin, Oxford and Cambridge, Anthony Traill, the then-Provost of Trinity College, proposed that eligible female Oxbridge course completers be granted Trinity degrees, as was the case for men. The policy lasted from June 1904 to December 1907, when requirements for ad eundem awards were revised.
The Board of Trinity College thought that only small numbers of women would take up the offer to graduate and that they would be Irish women who had studied in Oxford or Cambridge colleges. In fact, by 1907 Trinity had granted degrees to some 720 "Steamboat Ladies." All had passed examinations at Oxbridge that would have earned them a degree if they were male. The women were predominately students of Girton and Newnham Colleges, Cambridge and Somerville College, Oxford.
Money deriving from the degree conferral fees that female graduates paid during this period were largely ringfenced and were used to fund the purchase of Trinity Hall, an extramural hall of residence for female students which opened in 1908.
Notable steamboat ladies
- Julia Bell (1879–1979), human geneticist
- Dorothy Brock DBE (1886–1969), educationist and headmistress
- Sara Burstall (1859–1939), educationist and headmistress
- Frances Dove DBE, JP (1847–1942), teacher and headmistress
- Gertrude Elles MBE (1872–1960), geologist
- Lilian Faithfull CBE, JP (1865–1952), teacher and headmistress
- Philippa Fawcett (1868–1948), mathematician and educationalist
- Florence Gadesen (1853–1934), teacher and headmistress
- Ethel Gavin (1866–1918), educationist and headmistress
- Frances Ralph Gray (1861–1935), teacher and headmistress
- Ruth Herbert Lewis (1871-1946), social reformer and folk-song collector
- Katharine Jex-Blake (1860–1951), classicist and teacher
- Lilian Knowles (1870–1926), historian and professor of economic history
- Penelope Lawrence (1856–1932), educator
- Ellen McArthur (1862–1927), economic historian
- Edith Major (1867–1951), educationist and headmistress
- Emily Penrose DBE (1858–1942), classicist and educationalist
- Bertha Phillpotts DBE (1877–1932), linguist, historian and educationalist
- Eleanor Rathbone (1872–1946), suffragist, social reformer and member of parliament
- Shena Simon (1883–1972), politician, feminist, educationalist and writer
- Eugénie Sellers Strong CBE (1860–1943), archaeologist and art historian
- Margaret Tuke (1862–1947), academic and educator
- Katharine Wallas CBE (1864–1944), politician and educationalist
- Mary Hay Wood (1868–1934), educationist
- "A Timeline of the History of Women in Trinity". A Century of Women in Trinity College. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
- Rayner-Canham, Marelene F.; Rayner-Canham, Geoffrey (2008-01-01). Chemistry Was Their Life: Pioneering British Women Chemists, 1880-1949. Imperial College Press. ISBN 9781860949876.
- Parkes, Susan M. (2004). A danger to the men? : a history of women in Trinity College Dublin 1904-2004. Dublin: Lilliput Press. ISBN 1843510405. OCLC 55008150.
- Harper, Peter S. (24 October 2008). A Short History of Medical Genetics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199720132.
- Parkes, Susan M. "Steamboat ladies (act. 1904–1907)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 5 January 2011.