Guest Editors' Note

By Townsend, Lucy F.; Franzosa, Susan Douglas | Vitae Scholasticae, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Guest Editors' Note

Townsend, Lucy F., Franzosa, Susan Douglas, Vitae Scholasticae

This special issue on women's education is a by-product of a meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the American Educational Studies Association (AESA) was hosting its 2005 conference. Three friends of long standing--Susan Douglas Franzosa, 2008 president of AESA; Susan Laird, 2007 president of the Philosophy of Education Society; and Lucy Townsend, executive director of the Country School Association of America--sat down to discuss the status of research on women's education. We all expressed concern that although some of our students wanted to explore women's education, none of us had enough students to offer a class on that topic. What could we--three senior scholars--do to ensure that graduate students had the opportunity to develop a research agenda and pursue scholarship on women and education? By the time the conference was over, we had decided to organize a new academic community.

With small grants from our universities, we met for a week on an island near the coast of Washington in 2006 and held a follow-up meeting in Chicago in 2007. We focused on the following:

* articulating the aims and strategies for our project, which we called Educating Women: An International, Intergenerational Community of Scholars;

* identifying potential sources of funding; and

* generating a list of senior scholars who might want to join us.

Our primary aim was to provide inexperienced scholars interested in women's education with structural support through networks that reached beyond our nation's borders. We were particularly eager to include researchers in developing nations, especially those who lacked adequate resources to visit other nations. We decided that our first steps would be to develop a website, establish a nonprofit organization (now The Society for Educating Women or SEW), write grant proposals, hold conferences, and invite senior scholars to serve as mentors. Using the internet and annual conferences, senior scholars would help neophytes research and write papers, present their work at conferences, and/or disseminate the results. We hoped that these efforts would lead to a virtual center for research on women's education that included oral histories, a refereed electronic journal, and possibly a summer institute. If we lacked the necessary resources to host annual conferences, we would encourage inexperienced scholars and their mentors to present their work at the conferences we usually attended, such as those sponsored by AESA and the International Society for Educational Biography. In addition, senior scholars would be asked to develop symposia that included inexperienced scholars.

A crucial step was to divide the labor. Susan Laird agreed to establish a website ( and seek nonprofit status for the organization. Lucy Townsend promised to host the inaugural conference and, based on the presentations, to edit two journal issues. Susan Franzosa said that she would organize a conference within the next two years.

As a follow-up, Townsend sent a proposal to ISEB asking for a SEW presentation to be placed on the 2007 conference program. During ISEB's 2007 conference, she explained the project and urged ISEB scholars to participate in the organization if they or their students were interested in research on the education of women. To our surprise and delight, ISEB's Executive Committee informed Townsend that ISEB would contribute $5,000 toward the Educating Women Project. In addition, Naomi Norquay, then editor of Vitae Scholasticae; and Rebecca Martusewics, editor of Educational Studies (an AESA journal), agreed to allow Lucy to edit special issues of their journals.

In May 2008, approximately seventy people met at the historic Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago for the first SEW conference. The $5,000 that ISEB had donated enabled the conference team to provide travel funds for four keynote speakers: Ruth Sweetser, president of the American Association of University Women; Kolawole Babatunde, activist for the advancement of girls' and women's education in Nigeria; Gaby Weiner, leading scholar in Sweden and the United Kingdom; Jane Roland Martin, prominent philosopher of education and gender. …

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