Mary Lines - the polytechnic's star performer at Womens’ Olympiad 1921
Mary Lines - our star performer at the Womens’ Olympiad 1921


The University has an amazing history. The place where moving image was shown for the first time, the site of the first photography studio in Europe, indeed the first Polytechnic in the world. Our ethos has always been one of helping people, be that rehabilitating soldiers after the first world war, our commitment to public engagement giving ‘ordinary people’ the opportunity to experience ideas and developments that otherwise might not be afforded to them, and our commitment to our communities, both locally and globally.

The University has quite a sporting pedigree. You may have seen the panel on the stairs by the Regent Street foyer detailing our famous Polytechnic Harriers who have achieved amazing success, record and medals, and may also be aware of our important input to the 1908 and 1948 Olympic Games including organising the 1908 marathon.  

Studd trophy board at Regents Street campus
The Studd trophy board at Regents Street campus


There is however something missing – and this project hopes to go some way to remedying that. The role of our brilliant women are missing from this history, or at least not fully visible. This project seeks to celebrate the 10 women athletes that competed on our behalf 100 years ago,  but also the crucial importance of women to the University more generally.

The Writing between the Lines aims to start to rectify this, initially by commemorating the role of the Polytechnic women who left from Victoria Station to journey to France for the first Women's Olympiad on 21 March 1921. Ten Poly women were part of this party, including the first star of women’s athletics after the first world war; Mary Lines. Ten student poets will be selected, and mentored to produce a piece of commissioned writing in response to these women’s stories, drawing in part from some of the materials collected below.

Mary Lines recognised on third plinth at 309 Regent Street

Lightbox featuring Mary Lines portrait on plinth in Regent Campus foyer

The Mary Lines lightbox on the third plinth in Regent Street foyer.


Polytechnic magazine

This includes reports of the journey and successes at the Womens' Olympiad.
The Polytechnic Magazine, April 1921

English Girl Athletes (Pathe News, 1921)

This short footage includes rare footage of the Polytechnic women at the Womens' Olympiad.

Between the lines

Inspiration board (Padlet) for the Polytechnic Ladies Athletics team.

Hannah Copley on the Writing Between the Lines project.

University of Westminster Archives blog

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Women's Olympiad