The University of Edinburgh's Speculative Society to begin accepting female members

The debating society's alumni includes Robert Louis Stevenson

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The Independent Online

One of the world’s oldest debating societies, whose secretive candlelit meetings have taken place for centuries at the University of Edinburgh, is to begin accepting female members for the first time.

The Speculative Society, which was founded in 1764 and whose previous members have included Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, voted in favour of allowing women to take part by a margin of three to one in February, it has announced.

Last year a review carried out by Professor Mary Bownes, the University’s vice-principal, criticised the fact that it was using college premises for meetings without paying rent. It was given six months to overhaul its membership rules or face eviction.

A spokesman for the Society said it had “actively discussed female membership for many years”. He added: “A consultation of our membership was concluded in February, with members voting three to one in favour of admitting women. We have welcomed female candidates for membership since then and expect to admit female members in the next session, which begins in October.

“We hope that our newly established position on female membership will strengthen the Society and enable us to continue our 250-year-old tradition of advancing public speaking and literary composition long into the future.”