SALLY Chilvers, who has died aged 99, was a former principal of Lady Margaret Hall who oversaw its transition to admitting men as well as women.

She moved from Bedford College, University of London, in 1971 to help Lady Margaret Hall transfer to co-education.

Many of the Oxford University men’s colleges had gone co-ed but only St Anne’s of the women’s colleges had decided to open to men as well as women.

Mrs Chilvers, a noted anthropologist, lived longer than any other head of an Oxford college.

This week’s obituaries:

Elizabeth Millicent Chilvers, nee Graves, known as Sally, was born in Turkey on August 3, 1914, to parents Philip Perceval Graves, a foreign correspondent for The Times, and Millicent Graves. She was the niece of the poet Robert Graves.

She was born the day before Britain declared war on Germany and her family fled to Alexandria, Egypt, before returning to the UK, settling in Cornwall. Her father stayed in the Middle East to continue his work as a foreign correspondent.

After the war they headed to Turkey, but following the Greco-Turkish war, when Miss Graves was eight, they moved to London.

She attended Benenden School, an independent boarding school for girls in Kent, before going up to Somerville College in 1932 to study English.

She changed her subject to history and while studying met her future husband Richard Chilvers.

After Somerville in 1935, she visited distant relatives with her mother in Germany, but her mother was bitten by a poisonous insect and died within a matter of days.

Later that year she went on a tour of the Middle East and Bulgaria and did odd writing jobs for her father in Jerusalem. They travelled to Bulgaria and, somewhere in the country, the train they were travelling in stopped without explanation in the middle of a field.

Mrs Chilvers later recalled: “There were always coups and things going on, so we had no idea what was to happen.

“But a ladder was put against the door of our carriage and in came a man with six fingers on each hand. He said ‘His Majesty is awaiting you at the bottom of the ladder’.

“The king [Boris III of Bulgaria] was a butterfly collector, as was my father, so we were literally kidnapped off the train, which the king had been driving. It was a hobby of his.”

They ended up staying for a few days with the king in the Rila Mountains, collecting butterflies.

Miss Graves returned to the UK and married Mr Chilvers in 1937, at St Mark’s Church, London.

In 1939 Mrs Chilvers was allocated a job with the Civil Service for the Second World War.

She was part of “neutral trade intelligence” in the Ministry of Economic Warfare, making sure that neutral countries got enough supplies but not enough to pass on extras to Germany.

She later worked in the War Cabinet Office on supplies to overseas territories, together with Belgium and France. This was where she first took an interest in the French Cameroons.

At the end of the war, Mrs Chilvers briefly re-entered journalism but returned to the Civil Service in the Colonial Office, from 1948 to 1957.

There she met anthropologists Phyllis Kaberry and Ruth Landes and began research exchanges with the French and Belgians.

Afterwards she came to Oxford to join the Institute of Colonial Studies, and joined Ms Kaberry in Cameroon in 1958 to work closely with her as a historian.

In 1957 she was appointed director of the University of London’s Institute of Commonwealth Studies, before working as a senior researcher from 1961 to 1964, when she moved to Bedford College.

In 1971 she came to Oxford as principal of Lady Margaret Hall.

She retired in 1979, but continued to spend her time between Oxford and London, where she and her husband had a flat.

She also continued with her research into the Cameroons.

Sally Chilvers died on July 3. Her husband, who had also been a civil servant, passed away in 1985.

A memorial service for Mrs Chilvers was held at Lady Margaret Hall on November 22.

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