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Gender and the Politics of Knowledge

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 February 2017

Mary Ann Dzuback
Department of Education at Washington University
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Contentious public debates about women's rational and moral capacity circulated during the European Enlightenment at the same time that science was emerging as a dominant mode of inquiry. As historian Karen Offen argues in European Feminisms, these debates preoccupied both men and women intellectuals of the middling and upper classes and represented a pivotal moment in the three-century campaign to rearticulate a politics of knowledge proclaiming women as deserving as men of formal schooling at all levels. Disputes about women's capabilities emerged in the context of efforts to redefine the rights and privileges of men, of male intellectuals to reassert male dominance over and control of females’ access to intellectual participation as well as the craft guilds associated with women's work, and of men and women to consider the meaning and structure of social institutions and social systems. The German poet Philippine Engelhard captured women's frustrations with the limits imposed upon them in comparison to men in the context of the formation of the liberal state, the development of the middle class, and the growth of humanistic and scientific inquiry:

Copyright © 2003 by the History of Education Society 


1 Offen, Karen European Feminisms, 1700–1950: A Political History (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), chapter 1; Engelhart quoted 41–42.

2 Schiebinger, Londa The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modem Science (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 1213; Patricia H. Labalme, ed., Beyond their Sex: Learned Women of the European Past (New York: New York University Press, 1984).

3 Offen, European Feminisms, 3133; Schiebinger, The Mind Has No Sex, 15–16.

4 Wollstonecraft, Mary A Vindication of the Rights of Women, with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects [1792] (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1967), 75; Offen, European Feminisms, 38–45.

5 Murray, Judith SargentOn the Equality of the Sexes,“ in Rossi, Alice S., ed., The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beauvoir (New York: Columbia University Press, 1973), 19.

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6 See, for example, Solomon, Barbara Miller In the Company of Educated Women: A History of Women and Higher Education in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985); Ginzburg, Lori D. “The ‘Joint Education of the Sexes': Oberlin's Original Vision,” in Carol Lasser, ed. Educating Men and Women Together: Coeducation in a Changing World (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 67–80; Barbara Miller Solomon, “The Oberlin Model and Its Impact on Other Colleges,” in ibid., 81–90.

7 Eisenmann, LindaReconsidering a Classic: Assessing the History of Women's Higher Education a Dozen Years after Barbara Solomon,“ Harvard Educational Review 16 (Winter 1997): 689717. See, for examples of lack of influence: Geiger, Roger L. To Advance Knowledge: The Growth of American Research Universities, 1900–1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) and idem., Research and Relevant Knowledge: American Research Universities since World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Levine, David O. The American College and the Culture of Aspiration, 1915–1940 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986); Rothblatt, Sheldon The Modern University and Its Discontents: The Fate of Newman's Legacies in Britain and the United States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Lucas, Christopher J. American Higher Education: A History (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994). Examples of integration of gender in histories of secondary education: Tyack, David and Hansot, Elisabeth, Learning Together: A History of Coeducation in American Schools (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990); Rury, John Education and Women's Work: Female Schooling and the Division of Labor in America (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991); Reese, William J. The Origins of American High School (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); Graves, Karen Girls’ Schooling during the Progressive Era: From Female Scholar to Domesticated Citizen (New York: Garland Publishers, 1998); and Tolley, Kim The Science Education of American Girls: A Historical Perspective New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003). Recent work that has integrated gender in studies of higher education: Solomon, In the Company, which focuses entirely on women's experience; Gordon, Lynn D. Gender and Higher Education in the Progressive Era (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990); Palmieri, Patricia Ann In Adamless Eden: The Community of Women Faculty at Wellesley (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); McCandless, Amy Thompson The Past in the Present: Women's Higher Education in the Twentieth-Century American South (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999).

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8 Exceptions include Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to Eighteen-Seventy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), ch. 9, and Linda Kerber, Toward an Intellectual History of Women: Essays (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), chs. 1 and 9.

9 Scott, Joan WallachGender: A Useful Category of Analysis,“ in Scott, , ed., Feminism in History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 167, 168; Barbara Melosh, “Introduction,” in Melosh, ed., Gender and American History since 1890 (New York: Routledge, 1993).

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10 Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, 10; Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, “Looking at Gender: Women's History,” in Historical Inquiry in Education, ed. John Hardin Best (Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association, 1983), 251–64; Geraldine Jonçich Clifford, “Shaking Dangerous Questions from the Crease: Gender and American Higher Education” Feminist Issues 3 (Fall 1983): 3–62.

11 Scott, Feminism in History, 169.

12 Beadie, NancyInternal Improvement: The Structure and Culture of Academy Expansion in New York State in the Antebellum Era, 1820–1860,“ in Chartered Schools: Two Hundred Years of Independent Academies in the United States, 1727–1925, ed. Beadie, Nancy and Tolley, Kim (New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2002), 89115, and Beadie, “Emma Willard's Idea Put to the Test: The Consequences of State Support of Female Education in New York, 1819–67,” History of Education Quarterly 33 (Winter 1993); Tolley, The Science Education of American Girls.

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13 On women's colleges and women faculty, see also Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women; Palmieri, In Adamless Eden; Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984); Kaufman, Polly Welts ed., The Search for Equity: Women at Brown University, 1881–1991 (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for Brown University, 1991). On women faculty in coeducational institutions, see Clifford, Geraldine Jonçich ed. Lone Voyagers: Academic Women in Coeducational Universities, 1870–1937 (New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1989). See also Woody, Thomas A History of Women's Education in the United States (2 vols.; New York: The Science Press, 1929), on the development of schools, academies, seminaries, and colleges for women in the United States.

14 Reuben, Julie The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Veysey, Laurence R. The Emergence of the American University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965).

15 Bederman, GailIda B. Wells's Anti-Lynching Campaign,“ in Melosh, ed., Gender and American History since 1890, 211, 213.

16 Townsend, Kim Manhood at Harvard: William James and Others (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), chapter 1 and pp. 200–55.

17 Gordon, Gender and Higher Education; Christine A. Ogren, “Where Coeds Were Coeducated: Normal Schools in Wisconsin, 1870–1920,” History of Education Quarterly 35 (Spring 1995): 126; Linda M. Perkins, “The African-American Female Elite: The Early History of African American Women in the Seven Sister Colleges, 1880–1960,” Harvard Educational Review 67 (Winter 1997): 689–717; McCandless, The Past in the Present.

18 The earliest was the University of Zurich, followed by the University of Paris; Thomas Neville Bonner, To the Ends of the Earth: Women's Search for Education in Medicine (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 31–56.

19 On women's colleges and women faculty, see also Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women; Palmieri, In Adamless Eden; Horowitz, Alma Mater; Kaufman, ed., The Search for Equity. On women faculty in coeducational institutions, see Clifford, ed. Lone Voyagers. See also Woody, A History of Women's Education in the United States, on the development of schools, academies, seminaries, and colleges for women in the United States.

20 Pollard, Lucille Addison Women on College and University Faculties: A Historical Survey and a Study of Their Present Academic Status (New York: Arno Press, 1977), 152–53, on the growth of nineteenth-century women faculty. Newcomer, Mabel A Century of Higher Education for Women (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 165, on the proportion of women on the twenty-two largest women's college faculties; and A. Ellis, Caswell et al., “Preliminary Report of Committee W on Status of Women in College and University Faculties,” Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors 7 (October 1921): 21–32. Susan Boslego Carter, “Academic Women Revisited: An Empirical Study of Changing Patterns in Women's Employment as College and University Faculty, 1890–1963,” Journal of Social History 14 (Summer 1981): 680, Table 2, presents slightly different percentages for those years. On women's colleges and women faculty, see Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women; Horowitz, Alma Mater; Kaufman, ed., The Search for Equity. On women faculty in coeducational institutions, see Clifford., ed. Lone Voyagers. On Wellesley, see also Palmieri, In Adamless Eden; Jean Glasscock, ed. Wellesley College, 1815–1915: A Century of Women (Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College, 1975); Converse, Florence Wellesley College: A Chronicle of the Years, 1875–1938 (Wellesley, MA.: Hathaway House Bookshop, 1939). On Vassar, see also Haight, Elizabeth Hazleton The Life and Letters of James Monroe Taylor: The Biography of an Educator (New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, 1919); Monroe Taylor, James and Hazleton Haight, Elizabeth Vassar (New York: Oxford University Press, 1915); Rourke, Constance Mayfield ed., The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Opening of Vassar College, October 10 to 13, 1915: A Record (Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College, 1916); Plum, Dorothy A. and Dowell, George B. comps., and Constance Dimock Ellis, ed., The Magnificent Enterprise: A Chronicle of Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College, 1961).

21 Horowitz, Alma Mater explores the Seven Sisters’ founding and early missions. See also Heubeck Knipp, Anna and Thomas, Thaddeus P. The History of Goucher College (Baltimore: Goucher College, 1939) and Schmidt, George P. Douglass College: A History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1968).

22 Sampson, Myra M.Report on the Status of Women: Faculty of Smith College,“ 3; proportions compiled by President Burton, in same, 5, Myra M. Sampson Papers, Smith College Archives.

23 Robinson, Mabel Louise The Curriculum of the Woman's College (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 6, 1918), 100, on the percentages of Ph.D.s; she gives Harvard's percentage as Radcliffe's, but Radcliffe had no faculty apart from Harvard's. Exceptions to the faculty norm in Vassar's early years were astronomer Maria Mitchell and physician Alida Avery, who were appointed as professors.

24 Rossiter, Barbara Women Scientists, ch. 7. See the following on these different kinds of supports: Hutchinson, Women and the Ph.D.; Hawthorne, “Women as College Teachers”; Helen Sard Hughes, “The Academic Chance,” Journal of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 12 (January 1919): 7982. On salaries, see Stricker, “American Professors in the Progressive Era: Incomes, Aspirations, and Professionalism,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 19 (Autumn 1988): 231–57.

25 Lucy Salmon to Adelaide Underhill, 5 August 1900 and 23 August 1900, quoted in Louise Fargo Brown, Apostle of Democracy: The Life of Lucy Maynard Salmon (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1943), 180, 176. Robinson, The Curriculum of the Woman's College. On Vassar's departments, see History and Economics “Reports,” Archive Files, Vassar College Archives.

26 Hoxie, R. Gordon et al., A History of the Faculty of Political Science, Columbia University (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), 6667. See also McCaughey, Robert A. “A Statistical Profile of the Barnard College Faculty, 1900–1974,” (typescript, Department of History, Barnard College, 1975), Barnard College Archives. I extrapolated the number from his figures in tables 1.4, II.1, and II.5, based on a decadenal analysis, which includes part-time appointments. My own count reveals only 6 in 1940, all full-time and most with voting privileges on the faculty. My search was less exhaustive because I was interested in women who remained long enough to have some impact on the institutional culture at Barnard; see White, Mary Churchill A History of Barnard College, ed. Eleanor S. Minitz (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), 117–126, and Dean's Office and Departmental Papers, Barnard College Archives (DODP, BCA). The practice of delaying election to the faculty existed at Columbia for junior faculty: Hoxie, et al., A History of the Faculty of Political Science, Appendix C. On deans, see Walton, Andrea “Achieving a Voice and Institutionalizing a Vision for Women: The Barnard Deanship at Columbia University, 1889–1947,” Historical Studies in Education 13:2 (Fall 2001): 113–46; Nidiffer, Jana Pioneering Deans of Women: More than Wise and Pious Matrons (New York: Teachers College Press, 2000).

27 Dzuback, Mary AnnWomen and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College, 1915–1940,“ History of Education Quarterly 33: 4 (Winter 1993): 579608.

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28 Thomas, Knipp and The History of Goucher College, 569–82, lists all faculty to 1938. Both Bryn Mawr and Goucher had faculty in education as well. This was quite common at all the women's colleges, as most college graduates who worked went into teaching at least until they married, and often continued after marriage. Many women who eventually obtained Ph.D.s, hoping for academic employment, taught before entering graduate school and, when the academic job market constricted, returned to high school teaching after finishing advanced degrees.

29 See Fuller, Mary BreeseDevelopment of History and Government in Smith College, 1875–1920,“ Smith College Studies in History 5 (April 1920): 139173; Charles H. Page, Fifty Years in the Sociological Enterprise: A Lucky Journey (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1982), ch. 4; Faculty Files, Smith College Archives (FF, SCA). On college curricula, see Robinson, “Curriculum of the Woman's College,” for Vassar, Wellesley, Barnard, Radcliffe, and Mount Holyoke.

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30 Rossiter, Women Scientists, 168–69.

31 On Sweet Briar, see Martha Lou Lemmon Stohlman, The Story of Sweet Briar College (Sweet Briar, VA: Alumnae Association of Sweet Briar College, 1956), 236–46; on Hollins: Vickery, Dorothy Scovil Hollins College, 1842–1942: An Historical Sketch, Being an Account of the Principal Developments in the One-Hundred-Year History of Hollins College (Hollins College, VA: Hollins College, 1942, and Niederer, Frances J. Hollins College: An Illustrated History [1973] (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1985); “Department of Sociology and Economics at Hollins,” Hollins Alumnae Quarterly (July 1930): 12. I am especially grateful to Beth Harris of the Hollins College Archives for her help locating archival materials and for compiling a list of social sciences faculty for me.

32 Some black women, for example Sadie Tanner Mossell, who attained the Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in economics in 1921 and then a law degree, entered into law practice or fields other than academia. By the 1940s, when Merze Tate earned a Ph.D. in international relations from Radcliffe, academic positions were slowly beginning to open; Tate taught at Howard for thirty-five years. See Franklin, V.P.Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander,“ in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (hereinafter BWA), Vol. I, ed. Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 1719, and Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn “Merze Tate,” in BWA, Vol II, 114–15. On the colleges and student struggles, see McCandless, The Past in the Present, ch. 4; Jeanne L. Noble, The Negro Woman's College Education (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1987 [1956]), 24; Bolton, Ina Alexander “The Problems of Negro College Women” (Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California, 1949). Black parents wanted their daughters to be able to compete for the limited professional positions open to their educated daughters in the South; character was a critical qualification, particularly for black women; see Shaw, Stephanie J. What a Woman Ought to Be and to Do: Black Professional Women Workers during the Jim Crow Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), ch. 5. Special thanks to Faustine Jones-Wilson for pushing me to explore this further in my draft of the book manuscript.

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33 Schmidt, George P. Douglass College: A History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1968). On Connecticut College, see Noyes, Gertrude A History of Connecticut College (New London: Connecticut College, 1982) and Ames, Oakes Connecticut College: Contributing to a Changing Society (New York: The Newcomen Society of the United States, 1986); Grunfeld, “Purpose and Ambiguity,” on Hunter; and Noyes, A History of Connecticut College.

34 Belle Boone Beard Papers, Lynchburg College Archives; Belle Boone Beard Faculty File, Sweet Briar College Archives; Amy Hewes Faculty File, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections [hereafter MHCA].

35 “Summary of the Conference on Research in the Social Sciences in Colleges,” 12 and 13 December 1931, file 1, Ethel B. Dietrich Papers, FF, MHCA, 14, 8, 10. Dartmouth was the twelfth institution, but no data from Dartmouth were included in the report.

36 Addams, Jane quoted in Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women, 116; on this tension women experienced between family and work demands, see same, 130–140; McKinnon, Alison Love and Freedom: Professional Women and the Reshaping of Personal Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Cott, Nancy The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 221–222. For a specific example of how these living arrangements worked in one institution, see Palmieri, In Adamless Eden, ch. 8. On southern colleges, see McCandless, The Past in the Present, ch. 4; Shaw, What a Woman Ought to Be and to Do, ch. 5; Noble, The Negro Woman's College Education, 24.

37 I develop this further in a paper entitled “Passing the Torch: Academic Women and Professional Power,” initially presented at the History of Education Society annual meeting in 2000, and currently in revision for publication.

38 I develop this further in a paper entitled “Creative Financing in Social Science: Women Scholars and Early Research,” initially presented at the Social Science History Association annual meeting in 1999, and revised as a chapter in a forthcoming volume on the history of women and philanthropy.

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