WOMEN AND HIGHER EDUCATION
ESSAYS FROM THE MOUNT HOLYOKE COLLEGE SESQUICENTENNIAL SYMPOSIA
EDITED BY JOHN MACK FARAGHER AND FLORENCE HOWE
The Limits of Access
The History Of Coeducation in America
The roots of collegiate coeducation reach
back to the years before the Civil War, when women first pined access to Oberlin and a few
other colleges on terms nearly equal to men. This access owed much to the efforts of the
early women's rights movement, whose leaders declared that coeducation was an essential
precondition of woman's emancipation from her "separate sphere." Disappointed by
the education provided at the female secondary schools of their day, early feminists
feared that separate education for women would inevitably be inferior to that of men. The
only way of ensuring equality, they argued, was to insist that women and men be educated
Coeducation appealed to the leaders of the early women's movement not simply on academic grounds but on sexual grounds as well. In their view, the segregation of young men and women led to an undue preoccupation with sex; whereas the joint education of the sexes created a more natural and therefore healthier sexual atmosphere. "If the sexes were educated together," argued Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "we should have the healthy, moral and intellectual stimulus of sex ever quickening and refining all the faculties, without the undue excitement of senses that results from novelty in the present system of isolation." Coeducation, then, promised intellectual emancipation and sexual well-being. (2)
Women's early success at Oberlin persuaded many early women's rights leaders that coeducation would soon be achieved throughout the country. Lucy Stone summed up their views in an address at the 1856 Women's Rights Convention in New York City. "Our demand that Harvard and Yale colleges should admit women, though not yet yielded, only waits for a little more time. And while they wait, numerous petty 'female colleges' have sprung into being, indicative of the justice of our claim that a college education should be granted to women. Not one of these female colleges . . . meets the demands of the age, and so will eventually perish." (3)
Stone could not have been more wrong in her
specific prediction. Harvard and Yale did not admit women on equal terms with men for more
than a century, and female colleges, far from perishing, proliferated and flourished in
the years that followed her speech. Yet in a more general sense Stone was right. Despite
the resistance of Harvard and Yale (and of other male preserves, especially in the East
and South), by the end of the nineteenth century coeducation had become the predominant
form of higher education in this country, and today more than 95 percent of all college
women are enrolled in coeducational institutions. (4)
What remains uncertain is how fully coeducation lived up to the hopes of its early advocates. Scholars have written extensively about the history of higher education, but they have directed little attention to the impact of its predominant form on women's lives. Only in the past decade have historians begun to mine the archives of the colleges and universities and to describe women's experience in a number of different institutions. Much remains to be done, but some patterns have begun to emerge.
Though advocates of coeducation achieved some success in the antebellum period, their most important gains came in the wake of the Civil War, a war that left unprecedented numbers of young women faced with the necessity of supporting themselves. By 1872 ninety-seven colleges and universities had decided to admit women. These institutions varied widely in educational quality and purpose, and most were inferior to the eastern male colleges. But a significant and growing number of institutions--including Cornell, the University of Michigan, Wesleyan, Boston University, Wisconsin, and Berkeley--- did more than any educational institution ever had to give women the same education offered to men. (5)
Some of these institutions bowed to the power of moral exhortation in deciding to admit women. Boston University, for example, admitted women students in the early 1870s simply because, as President William Warren said, the time had come for the idea of education for men only to be "retired to the museum of pedagogical paleontology." At Cornell coeducation grew out of a long campaign, conducted by both male and female women's rights advocates, including Horace Greeley, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Maria Mitchell. (6) Typically, however, the reasons for implementing coeducation were more complex. One compelling reason was the growing need for women teachers. Plagued by labor scarcity and indebtedness, many communities found it difficult to recruit teachers. In their search for cheap labor they hired women and urged legislatures to provide them with adequate training. A second encouraging factor was the 1862 passage of the Morrill Land Grant Act, by which Congress fostered the growth of the state universities. As these institutions developed, taxpayers demanded that their daughters, as well as their sons, be admitted. The University of Wisconsin began training women as teachers in its normal school during the Civil War, when male enrollment Plummeted, and the University of Michigan adopted coeducation in 1870, when the legislature forced a reluctant administration to accept women rather than undertake the extra expense of building a separate school. (7)
These factors helped determine the pattern of coeducation's successes and failures. In the East, where men's schools like Harvard and Yale were firmly established and where benefactors provided funds for separate instruction for women, coeducation made inroads. In the Midwest and West, where financial pressures tended to be greater, coeducation became the norm. The South represented a partial exception that confirmed this general economic rule. As a consequence of the Civil War and the conservative social tradition that lingered in the South, collegiate education developed more slowly than in the rest of the country, and sexual segregation persisted longer in both public and private institutions. Where traditions were weaker and economic constraints pronounced, however, coeducation was adopted. Thus, coeducation in the South came first to the state universities of Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi and to the black colleges. Only slowly did it spread eastward to the old South, not reaching the state-supported University of Virginia until 1970.
To the early leaders of the women's movement coeducation was a matter of right, but to those who finally relented coeducation was more often a matter of expediency, adopted simply because the separate education of women was too costly. This economic reality soured the coeducational experience from the start, for many male students regarded the presence of women students as a constant reminder of their second-class status with respect to eastern male schools. Women students were further hampered in their efforts to win acceptance by having to enter a male domain already well established. Male college culture in the late nineteenth century was marked by a good deal of rowdyism and brawling, much of which centered on the tradition of the "freshman- sophomore feud." At Michigan, Berkeley, and other schools across the country fights between freshmen and sophomore men could erupt at any time in chapel, in corridors, even in classrooms, and the faculty seemed helpless to stop the antagonists. Supporters of coeducation often argued that the presence of women would have a civilizing effect on male students, but that contention ignored the reality of strongly entrenched male traditions combined with the fact that men made up a large majority of the student bodies at coeducational schools. 9 Institutions that were coeducational from their founding, as were Boston University (1869) and the University of Chicago (1892.), generally succeeded more readily in integrating women and men than did institutions that simply added women to an already established male student body. At Wesleyan, where many male students complained that coeducation had been foisted on them by misguided administrators, men devised a variety of tactics to display their displeasure. They beat any men seen talking to a female student, barred women from appearing in the yearbook, and excluded them from membership in student organizations. Whether women's presence was generally accepted or not, however,. they remained a group apart. As pictures of lecture halls reveal, a fairly strict pattern of segregation prevailed, with women seated on one side of the room, men seated on the other. (10)
Women generally tolerated the uncivil behavior of their male classmates with dignified disdain; in fact, they were sometimes amused "to hear a boy of nineteen or twenty years define woman's sphere, and mark the line which she shall or ought to walk." The prejudice of male professors, however, proved more unsettling. Many professors had resisted the admission of women, citing studies which purported to show that women were physically incapable of higher education, and some professors found it difficult to acknowledge women's presence once they were admitted. At Boston University some professors treated women students as trespassers, addressing them by their last names. At Michigan one instructor addressed his "mixed class of men and women as 'gentlemen,' and, in calling on a woman student addressed her as 'Mr. so-and-so,' as though he were still teaching an all male class." Ignoring women's presence sometimes took the extreme form of denying them the conventional honors of academic achievement. As industrial engineer Lillian Moller Gilbreth recalled of her experience at Berkeley in 1900, "There was no prejudice against women students. Consequently, it was a surprise, and a painful one, to aim for a Phi Beta Kappa key, only to learn there would be no girls on the list because 'when it came to finding a job, men needed the help of this honor more than women did.'" Having access to the same education as men did not always entail being accorded the same right of recognition. (I I)
Women's minority status on many campuses was underscored by the facilities available for their use. The spacious dormitories and well-equipped gymnasiums of the eastern women's colleges rarely existed for women at coeducational institutions before 1900. On most campuses men had filled the little dormitory space available when female students entered, so women had to join the overflow of male students in boardinghouses off campus. Those schools that could afford to build gymnasium or a student center typically either barred women from both or strictly limited their access. (12)
In retrospect, the faith of early women's rights leaders that the admittance of women to men's colleges would lead to the abolition of woman's "separate sphere" within American higher education seems naive. Early feminists simply underestimated the tenacity of the male collegiate tradition in the face of a feminine incursion that few men welcomed. Yet despite the difficulties women endured, coeducation gave them the satisfaction of knowing that they could meet the same educational challenges faced by their brothers. As President James B. Angell observed of the Michigan woman student, "there is a value in the consciousness she has that her education is identical in scope and thoroughness with that of her brother; that circumstance gives her confidence, self-reliance and strength." Conditioned from childhood to doubt her own intelligence, the woman admitted to I a I I institution had the pleasure of discovering covering that she could match or surpass the achievements of male students. (13)
Along with their sense of intellectual accomplishment, the pioneers of coeducation enjoyed an unusual degree of personal freedom. Many universities permitted women to come and go as they pleased, just as men did, and despite the "anticoed" policy often adopted by student organizations, friendships between men and women proved difficult to prevent. As the heroine of an early roman a clef about life at Michigan commented in a letter to a Vassar friend:
Now you wanted to know about the boys--whether they pay us much attention ... Well, I'll just tell you that you could not carry on many flirtations, and keep up your standing in class too. Some of the girls tried it, but found they must give up one or the other, and with remarkable good sense they chose their books instead of the boys. Yet from the way the wind blows, I should not wonder if one or two matches were made in our class. Well, what could be more natural and fitting? Where can men and women learn to know each other better than by reciting in the same classes? Why did not your father let you come here with me, instead of sending you off to an old boarding-school, where you don't see a fellow once a month, and are always watched by some old corridor spy?
The first generation of college women was a dedicated group, more interested in
preparing for a career than in finding a husband, more inclined to seek fellowship with
each other than with men. But roughly half the women married, and those trained at
coeducational institutions often married men from the same institution. Even at Wesleyan,
where the ostracism of female students from student life was particularly severe,
one-third of the women married Wesleyan men. (14)
In the 1870s and 1880s women represented a small minority of the students at coeducational institutions. But by 1900 the popularity of higher education among women had become so great that female enrollment at many colleges and universities outstripped male enrollment. There swept through the country a growing fear that if nothing were done to prevent it, within a few years many coeducational institutions would become women's schools. Schools that had welcomed women when they represented an economic asset now worried that American universities had been saved from the fate of insolvency only to be subjected to the much worse fate of "feminization." This fear led many colleges and universities to reconsider their coeducational policy. (15)
At the University of Chicago some faculty and administrators argued that they had never really favored coeducation in the first place but had agreed to it merely for economic reasons. Now that Chicago was firmly established as a prestigious university, continuing to admit women simply served, as one professor remarked, "to divert . . . a large number of the best class of college men" to all-male schools like Yale. A minority of the faculty fought the administration's proposal to segregate men and women in their freshman and sophomore years, but to no avail. At Stanford University the founder's widow so feared that the university, dedicated to the memory of her son, would become a female seminary that she froze female enrollment permanently at 500. Boston University launched a "More Men Movement" to try to persuade young men to enroll in greater numbers. And Wesleyan simply abandoned coeducation altogether. (16)
The turn-of-the-century reaction against coeducation drew energy from the widespread perception that the women students coming to college were distinctly less serious than earlier women students had been. Whereas the first generation of women who attended such institutions as Michigan and Cornell were strongly committed to careers, at the expense, if necessary, of family life, the next generation represented a broader group of young women, many of whom regarded college not simply as an avenue to work but also as preparation for marriage. Marion Talbot, dean of women at Chicago, described the less ambitious young women coming to college after 1900 in a speech to a group of club women: "An increasing number are entering college who have no interest in research or even in careful but not advanced scholarship." Talbot conceded that these new less ambitious students "still have the desire within them to make the most of themselves," but she warned her listeners that colleges were inevitably limited in what they could accomplish by the values and aspirations instilled in students by society and their families. A college could not make a scholar out of a student who had no ambition to be one. (17)
The rapid rise in female enrollment, together with the more diverse character of the female student body, persuaded many university officials that they could no longer dismiss women students as exceptions or rely on mutual hostility between the sexes to preserve Victorian morality. Schools that had consciously refrained from passing any special regulations for women in the early years of coeducation began hiring deans to supervise their women students. At Michigan, President Angell, having declined to hire a dean for more than two decades, finally submitted to pressure from the regents in 1896 to hire someone to exercise "intellectual and moral oversight" over the women students. Angell chose Eliza Mosher, one of Michigan's most outstanding early women medical school graduates, and offered her a post as full professor of hygiene in the Literary college. Mosher took her responsibility for "moral oversight" seriously, devising elaborate rules for social conduct and enforcing them zealously. Young women traveling to and from college, for instance, were required to travel by day if they were going by coach and by Pullman sleeper if at night. Once a freshman going home for vacation sat up all night in a coach, and Mosher promptly suspended her from school." (18)
One of the biggest problems suffered by coeducational institutions, suddenly convinced of the need to enforce sexual segregation in student life, was that they did not have enough dormitory space to house all their students. Suddenly women
whose housing and athletic needs had been ignored for decades found themselves the beneficiaries of new dormitories and gymnasiums. Students gave these new structures a mixed response. Many women rejoiced at finally being able to enjoy the kind of fellowship and physical activity that the men had enjoyed all along. Others regretted the loss of freedom, the indignity of submitting to rules fashioned only for women, and the new distance established between the sexes. At Grinnell College, male students protested the cloistering of women students in a new set of dormitories. "The natural social relations between men and women, always somewhat warped in the college atmosphere, has been almost completely thwarted by artificial barriers," complained one man. No longer able to eat together, men and women found it difficult, under the new system of segregated housing, to form a wide circle of friendships. (19)
Women's heightened presence in coeducational institutions led not only to changes in campus social life but also to a reconsideration of the education women should receive. The idea that women should be trained differently from men was an old one, but until the turn of the century women faculty and women's rights leaders had opposed it. As higher education came to appeal to a broader spectrum of young womanhood, however, courses fitted to women's domestic interests gained support, not only from male educators but from female educators as well.
The experience of Marion Talbot provides an interesting case study of the complicated forces that lay behind the emergence of "women's courses" in coeducational institutions. Talbot, one of Boston University's first women graduates in 1880, took her master's degree in chemistry with Ellen Richards at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1884. Briefly she taught at Wellesley and then moved in 1892 to Chicago to serve as dean of women and assistant professor of sociology. There she tried to persuade President William Rainey Harper to allow her to establish a department of sanitary science to train both men and women to deal with the problems of urban planning, sanitation, and consumer protection. She envisioned a program that would include courses in chemistry, physics, physiology, political economy, and modem languages--a program that would enable women and men to work together to alleviate urban problems. Because he had overcommitted his funds, Harper denied Talbot's request, urging her to work for her goals within the department of sociology. (20)
In the beginning sociology proved a sympathetic home for Talbot and her plans. Though the men in the department thought of themselves as scholars more than as reformers, they assumed that there was an intimate connection between scientific study and reform activity. But as the university expanded, professional ambition, combined with the belief that specialization was necessary to scientific advance, led them away from interdisciplinary and reformist activity. (21)
By 1902 Talbot had had to abandon her initial hope that sanitary science could become the central focus of the social and physical sciences in the reform of urban society. A steady stream of letters from expanding state universities asking for recommendations for teachers of home economics, the shifting character of women students at Chicago, and her colleagues' growing concern with specialization, combined to persuade Talbot that she should narrow her claim to academic expertise from sanitary science to home economics. Two years later Harper eliminated the field of sanitary science within sociology and established a separate department, called household administration, under Talbot's direction. Although Talbot gained the independence she had been seeking for more than a decade, the very title of the department Harper finally bestowed upon her eliminated the androgynous tone of the field she had first sought to create. Thus, the dramatic rise in women students' enrollment merged with the trend toward specialization to reinforce traditional attitudes about women's role in American society and to cut short the curricular reforms that some of the more farsighted female academics sought to foster. (22)
In many ways, then, the years between 1900 and 1910 represented a retreat from the early feminist vision of a life free of sex segregation. As student bodies became more broadly representative of the American populace and as men within academia struggled to secure a position of strength amid the female invasion, it became harder to distinguish the coeducational experience from life in the larger society. As new disciplines developed, men and women became concentrated in different fields within them. Experimental psychology became men's work; clinical psychology and social work became women's work. (23)
Many scholars, pointing to the disproportionately large number of successful women scientists produced by the elite women's colleges, have argued that the separate education deplored by early feminists actually did more to challenge conventional gender roles than did mixed education. But other scholars have suggested that graduates of the Seven Sisters owed their interest in science more to their relatively privileged backgrounds than to separate education by itself. A comparison of course enrollment figures in 1900 at such roughly comparable institutions as Chicago and Wellesley suggests that, for these two schools at least, the willingness of women students to challenge prevailing stereotypes was about the same whether they studied with men or not. In both schools roughly 3 5 percent of the women studied foreign languages, while only about 15 percent studied the physical sciences and mathematics. More recent comparisons of single sex and coeducational institutions suggest that women at coeducational institutions are slightly more likely to take courses in traditionally masculine fields than their sisters at women's colleges. Moreover, studies that have taken the social and economic background of students into account suggest that graduates of women's colleges have not been any more likely to pursue careers after college than graduates of coeducational institutions. The expectations that young women bring to college and the opportunities available to them at college and in the larger world may be more important in their choice of courses than the presence or absence of men. (24)
Whatever the ultimate verdict on which type of institution succumbed more completely to the social pressure to prepare women students for conventional roles, scholars generally agree that neither form ever encouraged so extreme a pattern of sex segregation as the society from which it grew. American colleges and universities opened doors never before opened to women, and many students walked through to lives women never had experienced before. Despite the continuing tendency of women and men to concentrate in different kinds of work, higher education greatly broadened women's opportunities. In the mid-1880s, when women students were most enthusiastic about academic experimentation, the great majority became teachers; in the 1910s even though some of the early iconoclasm had dissipated, women were preparing for a much wider range of occupations. A college education meant that a woman was more likely to work, even if married, and more likely to work in a field traditionally dominated by men. In a society highly segregated by sex, higher education, no matter what its form, provided one of the most important challenges to that segregation. (25)
That challenge grew stronger as the male traditions, which had initially isolated women in many colleges and universities, began to fade and the modem sexual revolution struck American campuses. Ironically, changes in the mores of a new generation of college students rendered largely futile the frantic efforts of university administrators to impose a system of separate sexual spheres on student social life. Reared in a more affluent time than their parents, the youth of the teens and twenties rejected the rigid constraints of Victorian society. Young women cut their hair, threw away their corsets, shortened their skirts, danced all night, and even Eliza Mosher could not do much about it.
The revolt of the younger generation against the proscriptions of their parents permanently altered campus life, especially on coeducational campuses. One young woman at Ohio State University summed up the new sense of freedom in her school newspaper:
The college girl--particularly the girl in the coeducational institution--is a plucky, coolheaded individual who thinks naturally. She doesn't lose her head--she knows her game and can play it dextrously. She is armed with sexual knowledge . . . She is secure in the most critical situations--she knows the limits, and bemuse of her safety in such knowledge she is able to run almost the complete gamut of experience.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton had not intended that coeducation be as "natural" as
the Ohio student found it to be, but surely she would have applauded the young woman's
belief in her power to control her own body. (26)
The impact of the sexual revolution varied greatly in different groups. Small Catholic and black colleges continued to demand adherence to strict rules of conduct, both on and off campus, but most large schools abandoned the effort to chaperon students at all times. A small measure of the extent of the change in student life may be seen in the fact that even at Cornell, where men had observed an unwritten law against dating their female classmates for decades, fraternities began to admit coeds to their parties in the 1920s. As one Cornell woman later recalled, "The thing I remember about social life was the big difference between the coeds and the imports at parties, when they came for weekends. They had such a different attitude towards men. We were much more matter-of-fact. My sister at Wellesley didn't have a date for an evening the way we did. She always had a date for a weekend and very often, she'd say that she never wanted to see that guy again." Many observers deplored the seeming decline in academic seriousness among the young and regretted the tendency of younger college women to be valued more for their social desirability than their intelligence. But college women had gained something important in the relaxation of sexual mores in the early twentieth century. No longer did attending college mark one as a social pariah. (27)
'The teens and twenties were years of promise for college women, and that promise seemed especially strong within coeducational institutions because of their rapid expansion. English Professor Marjorie Nicolson, a graduate of the University of Michigan, who went on to hold professorships at Vassar and then Columbia, recalled the years during and after World War I as the best ever for women in higher education:
We came late enough to escape the self-consciousness and the belligerence of the pioneers, to take education and training for granted. We came early enough to take equally for granted professional positions in which we could make full use of our training. This was our double glory; it never occurred to us at the time that we were taken only because men were not available ... [and] woman after woman went into occupations in which they found little limitation imposed because of sex. (28)
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the women's colleges stood
virtually alone in offering faculty positions to talented women; women seeking academic
careers found little opportunity in coeducational institutions. But after 1910 the trend
shifted. Women's colleges no longer absorbed the number of women they had at their
founding. Moreover, in an effort to provide their students with a more
"balanced" education, they began replacing retiring women faculty with men. The
principal opportunities for women shifted to the landgrant colleges, which expanded
rapidly in the teens and twenties. No longer able to attract male faculty as easily as
before, because of a decline in professorial salaries and a concomitant expansion of
opportunities in business, land-grant colleges hired women in significant numbers for the
first time. (29) By 1930 women represented 28 percent of American college faculties.
Despite these remarkable gains, women were rarely hired at the most prestigious
institutions. Moreover, they tended to cluster in the lower ranks and in predominantly
female departments. The field of home economics alone, for instance, claimed 60 percent of
all women faculty members. The reasons for women's failure to make further gains than they
did are complex. First, many men were reluctant to hire and promote women, for they
feared, as had the male students of the 1870s that being associated with women raised
doubts about one's professional status. Physicist Robert Millikan expressed this fear in a
letter written to block the hiring of a woman in the physics department at Duke University
in 1936: "I would expect the more brilliant and able young men to be drawn into the
graduate department by the character of the men on the staff, rather than the character of
the women." One might justify admitting women as students, for they brought in money.
But hiring women as faculty and advancing them to higher positions undermined an
institution's effort to attract the best young men. (30)
Second, women in academia who sought to advance had to fulfill increasingly more stringent professional expectations, expectations fashioned mostly by men, who had wives ready to assume all the other responsibilities of their lives. When the early women's rights advocates imagined women's working equally with men in medicine, law, and academe, they were thinking of a very different kind of professionalism from the kind that developed in the twentieth century. As education became lengthier and more costly, and as professions came to require greater commitment, women suffered. Writing a solid thesis no longer sufficed; one must pursue a research agenda in addition to fulfilling one's teaching duties. (31)
Third, the increasing tendency of women to marry and combine family lives with careers complicated their lives, even as it enriched them. Women who married and had children were caught between the demands of their families and their own teaching and research interests. If an academic woman married an academic man, she faced the added obstacle of nepotism rules that barred her from working in the same institution as her husband. As one embittered woman reported to the Association of Collegiate Alumnae:
[in graduate school] we were thrown together in our work as well as in our play. We were in every sense equals. . . . From graduate school we went to a state university located in a town Of 15,000 inhabitants. My husband had an assistant professorship with a salary of $1,800 We were both enthusiastic about our new prospects.... I had come to this place with better equipment, as far as training goes, than any one in my field who was teaching there. But we had been in the town only a short time when we learned of a ruling which eliminated wives of members of the faculty from teaching in the university." (32)
Some historians have argued that after 1920 college-educated women traded the desire to
have a career for the desire to have a family life, but this does not square with the
available evidence. College-educated women married in greater numbers, but their
commitment to careers did not diminish, even after the decline in feminist enthusiasm had
robbed them of valuable political support. Each generation of college graduates proved
more ready than the last to pursue a career after marriage, despite widespread public
opposition to the practice, especially during the Great Depression. In the 1920S somewhere
between 10 and 28 percent did so; by the 1960s the proportion had grown to more than half
of all women graduates. Whether women attended college with or without men made little
difference in this regard. (33)
Women's employment in academia reflected this overall trend, with one notable exception: Women's share of employment grew until 1940 but declined after 1947. Returning male veterans, supported by the GI Bill and attracted by the sharply higher salaries of the postwar years, made ever greater claims on the academic market place, while women, weary of depression and war, experienced a temporary but notable drop in professional aspirations. The impact of veteran preference limited further progress for women in academia for the next two decades.
Within the past twenty years, however, female scholars, with the encouragement of a revived women's movement have more than redressed those losses. The rapid expansion of higher education in the 1960s and the capitulation of such remaining bastions of male exclusivity as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale to the growing popularity of coeducation provided women with unprecedented opportunities. In 1963 only 11 percent of all Ph.D.'s went to women, but by 1983, 33 percent were earned by women. Moreover, by 1983 women held 36 percent of all assistant professorships. (34)
Yet despite women's success within coeducation, they remain subordinate figures within it. That subordination stems from the legacy of women's restricted access to coeducation as well as from the limited nature of what access can accomplish by itself. Throughout most of the past century women's collegiate enrollment was restricted, officially, as at Stanford, or by social pressure. Only in the 1980s has women's attendance at college come to equal that of men.
At the faculty level, however, women remain a minority. Thus, the world the woman student enters continues to be a world shaped predominantly by men. These men have often proved to be highly successful at challenging their women students intellectually, yet as recent studies at Barnard College and Brown University have shown, female students tend to find role models more frequently from among the female faculty. As a consequence, female students may be less likely to find inspiration in coeducational settings than in the few remaining women's colleges where women faculty are more common. (35)
In sum the rising number of women at all levels of the academy creates a necessary but by no means sufficient condition for realizing the egalitarian vision of coeducation's early advocates. Only changes within liberal education itself can do that. A century ago women were grafted onto an institution built for men in a society dominated by men. Coeducation gave women the opportunity to be more like their brothers. This was a laudable goal in a society that had long reserved its richest prizes for males, but it was a limiting goal as well, for it ignored the concerns, the insights, and the aspirations born of women's differing experiences. During the past decade the study of women in history, anthropology, philosophy, and literary criticism has revealed the male-centered focus of traditional knowledge. In the process "feminization," which at the turn of the century referred to the debasement of a once- proud learned society, has today taken on a new meaning. Thoughtful scholars are showing how the study of women and gender not only enriches our knowledge but also transforms how we think about knowledge itself and the society that nurtures it. The ability of coeducation to live up to the expectations of its early advocates turns ultimately, therefore, not on women's reaching statistical parity within academe but on the willingness of the academy to foster this rethinking and to meet its challenge to transform liberal learning. (36)
ROSALIND ROSENBERG is professor of history at Barnard College, New York City
1 For early women's rights leaders' views on coeducation see Mari Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle, eds., The Concise History of Woman Suffrage: Selections from the Classic Work of Stanton, Anthony, Gage, and Harper (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois, 1987): 112, 119, 158, 203; "Coeducation of the Sexes," Woman's Journal (September 21, 187-1); Charlotte Williams Conable, Women at Cornell: The Myth of Equal Education (Ithaca, N.Y.; Cornell University Press, 1977): 26-42. Precedent for collegiate coeducation existed in the academies open to both male and female pupils from the late eighteenth century onward. Though less numerous than the separate institutions, they were well known, and their existence influenced those who pressed for coeducation at the college level. See Thomas Woody, A History of Women's Education in the United States (New York-- Science Press, 1929): 2:228.
2 Published in Pauline Wright Davis, A History of the National Woman's Rights Movement (New York: 1871): 62, quoted in William Leach, True Love and Perfect Union: The Feminist Reform of Sex and Society (New York: Basic Books, 1980): 80.
3 Quoted in Buhle and Buhle, Concise History of Woman Suffrage: 158. On restrictions on women's education at Oberlin, see Ronald Hogeland, "Coeducation of the Sexes at Oberlin College: A Study of Social Ideas in Mid- Nineteenth Century America 8 " Journal of Social History 5 (1972-1976). On Oberlin's influence, see Barbara Solomon, "The Impact of Oberlin's Coeducational Model on Other Colleges," in Educating Women and Men Together Coeducation in a Changing World, ed. Carol Lasser and Sondra J. Peacock (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1987).
4 Mabel Newcomer, A Century of Higher Education for Women (New York: Harper and Bros., 1959): 49; Barbara Miller Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women: A History of Women and Higher Education in America (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1985):207.
5 Woody, A History of Women's Education: 2:251-2; Patricia Albjerg Graham, "Expansion and Exclusion: A History of Women in Higher Education," Signs (3 1978): Leach, True Love and Perfect Union: 71-72.
6 Warren 0. Ault, Boston University: The College of Liberal Arts, 1873-1973; (Boston: Boston University, 1973): 7; Conable, Women at Cornell: 26-61.
7 Woody, A History of Women's Education: 2: 230-47; Helen M. Olin, Women of a State University (New York Putnam. 1909): 22-47; Dorothy Dies McGuigan, A Dangerous Experiment: 100 Years of Women at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 1970): 15-30.
8 Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: Intellectual Roots of Modem Feminism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982): 30-31; Elizabeth Lee Ihle, "The Development of Coeducation in Major Southern State Universities" (Ph.D. thesis, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1976): 101-178; Patricia A. Stringer and Irene Thompson, eds., Stepping Off the Pedestal: Academic Women in the South (New York Modem Language Association, 1982): 148-49.
9 McGuigan, A Dangerous Experiment: 44; Lynn D. Cordon, "Co-education on Two Campuses: Berkley and Chicago," 1 890- 19 12, " in Woman's Being, Woman's Place: Female Identity and Vocation in American History, ed. Mary Kidley (Boston: C. K. Hall, 1979): 173; "Stanford's First Women Students," Stanford Observer (May 1985): 3.
10 Louise Wilby Knight, "The 'Quails': The History of Wesleyan University's First Period of Coeducation, 1872-1912" (Honors thesis, Wesleyan University, 1972): 30-47, 117-22; Margaret Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1982): 10.
I I Ault, Boston University: 8; McGuigan, A Dangerous Experiment: 32; "Lillian Mona Gilbreth," in There Was Light: Autobiography of a University, Berkeley: 1868-1969. ed. Irving Stone (New York: Doubleday, 1970): 83.
12 Gordon, "Co-education on Two Campuses": 173-75; McGuigan, A Dangerous Experiment: 43, 59; lhle, "Development of Coeducation": 103,107, 126.
13 McGuigan, A Dangerous Experiment:
14 Olive San Louie Anderson, An American Girl and Her Four Years in a Boys' ColIege (1878), quoted in McGuigan, A Dangerous Experiment: 50-51; Mary Robert Coolidge, "Statistics of College and Non-College Women," American Statistical Association 7 (March-June 1900): 19-20; Knight, "The'Quails' ": 38. Two-thirds of the women at Wesleyan married.
15 Woody, A History of Women's Education: 2:280-95.
16 Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: 45; C. W. Elliot, Stanford University: The First Twenty-Five Years (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1937): 132-36; Ault, Boston University: 94; Knight, "The Quails;" 142-55.
17 Marion Talbot, "Cooperation in Educational Methods Between College and Club Women," Journal of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 3 (February 1906): 36.
18 McGuigan, A Dangerous Experiment: 59-68.
19 Joan C. Zimmerman "Daughters of
Main Shed. Culture and the Female Community at Grinnell 1884-1917," in Women's
Being, Women's Place: 167; Gordon, "Co-Education on Two Campuses": 174-75;
Ihle, "Development of Coeducation" 103, 107, 126, 127-28.
20 Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: 3 5.
21 Ibid: 35, 49.
22 Ibid: 49.
23 Alice I. Bryan and Edwin G. Boring, "Women in American Psychology: Factors Affecting Their Professional Careers," American Psychologist 2 (January 1947): 3-21.
24 Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: 1-28; M. Elizabeth Tidball, "Baccalaureate Origins of American Scientists and Scholars," Science 193 (1976): 646-52; Marion Talbot, "Me Women of the University," The Presidents' Report (Chicago: 1900): 143. See also the debate on college curricula in the Journal of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 3 (December 1898): 1-39. Brown University, Men and Women Learning Together: A Study of College Students in the Late 1970s, Report of the Brown Project (April 1980): 112; Mary I. Oates and Susan Williamson, "Women's Colleges and Women Achievers, " Signs 3 (1978): 795-806; M. Elizabeth Tidball, "Women's Colleges and Woman Achievers Revisited," Signs 5 (1980): 504-17; Janet Z. Giele, "Coeducation or Women's Education: New Findings of a Perennial Question," in Educating Men and Women Together.
25 Mary Van Kleek, "A Census of College Women," Journal of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 11 (May 1918): 561; Julie Matthaei, An Economic History of Women in America: Women's Work, the Sexual Division of Labor, and the Development of Capitalism (New York Schocken, 1982): 285-93; Solomon, In the Company of the Educated Women: 1 15-40.
26 Ohio State Lantern (January 9, 1922), quoted in Paula Fass, The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s (New York Oxford University Press, 1977): 307
27 Conable, Women at Cornell:
164, Lois K. M. Rosenberry, "Have Women Students Affected the Standards of
Coeducational Institutions?," Journal of the American Association of University
Professors 20 (1927): 37-40
28 Marjorie Nicholson, "The Rights andPriveleges Pertaining Thereto," Journal of the American Association of University Women 31 (1938): 136.
29 Susan B. Carter, "Academic Women Revisited: An Empirical Study of Changing Patterns in Women's Employment As College and University Faculty," Journal of Social History 14 (1981): 675-99; Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: 175-80.
30 Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: 192-93.
31 Graham, "Expansion and
Exclusion": 767-73; Nicolson, "Rights and Privileges Pertaining Thereto":
32 Reflections of a Professor's Wife," Journal the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 14 (192 1 ): 90.
33 Solomon, In the Company: 177; Giele, "Coeducation or Women's Education. "
34 Carter, "Academic Women Revisited": 681-83; Jessie Bernard, Academic Women (New York: Meridian, 1964): 29-40 Andrew Hacker, "The Decline of Higher Education," New York Review of Books (February 13, 1980 40.
35 Brown University, Men and Women
Learning Together: 247; Mirra Komarovsky, Women in College: Shaping Feminine
Identities (New York: Basic Books, 1985): 306-307.
36 Florence Howe, Myths of Coeducation: Selected Essays, 1964-1983 (Bloomington, Ind.: University of Indiana, 1984): 206-220 Carol Berkin, "Clio in Search of Her Daughters/Women in Search of Their Past" Liberal Education (Association of American Colleges) 71 (1985): 214.