Appealing in 1871 for funds for the Glasgow Association for the Higher Education of Women, Jessie Campbell said:

It is often said that if women wish to have Higher Education, they, or their parents, ought to pay all the expense of getting it... such payments have never been expected of men. Large sums of money have been given by Government and by private benefactors in order to provide for young men the educational advantages...The Association only makes the same appeal on a very much smaller scale, and trusts that it also will not make it in vain.

In 1868, Jessie Campbell, the wife of the owner of a prosperous department store in Glasgow, instigated a scheme to provide academic tuition for women, taught by University of Glasgow professors. When, as a result of this initiative, the Glasgow Association for the Higher Education of Women was founded in 1877, she became its Vice-President and chair of its executive committee, continuing to be a prolific fund-raiser for the cause of women's education.

When Queen Margaret College was founded in 1883, Jessie Campbell encouraged Isabella Elder the renowned philanthropist, to purchase premises for the new College and then raised �£20,000 from merchants and industrialists in Glasgow to match the endowment. Mrs Elder was always anxious to ensure that the women’s education, although separately conducted, was not in any way inferior to that of the male students, always stressing the need for equal opportunities.

Janet Galloway was the first secretary to the Association for the Higher Education of Women, and in 1883 became Honorary Secretary to the newly founded Queen Margaret College, where she was involved in all aspects of its administration, including liaison with the University staff in the preparation and delivery of teaching and the pastoral care of students. A former grateful student commented that she was "never too busy to see a student, advised as to courses and future careers, encouraged the ambitious, scolded the frivolous, found friends for the solitary, secured posts for those who were ready for them, and smoothed untrodden paths for many a diffident beginner".

The movement for women's equal rights to university education was finally successful in 1892 when the Scottish Universities Commissioners issued an ordinance empowering Scottish Universities to make provision for the instruction and graduation of women. Queen Margaret College amalgamated with the University of Glasgow and Jessie Campbell, at the age of 66, withdrew from higher education, her mission accomplished.

All three women were awarded Honorary LLDs by the University. In Jessie Campbell's 1901 oration, it was stated that she was "a lady whom the University delighted to honour - the originator of the movement for the higher educator of women in Glasgow - by whose long and unselfish efforts Queen Margaret College had become the women's department of the University of Glasgow". All three women are also depicted in a memorial window in the Bute Hall.