Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White - Vol. 1

By Andrew Dickson White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
"COEDUCATION" AND AN UNSECTARIAN PULPIT--1871-1904

S TILL another new departure was in some respects bolder than any of those already mentioned. For some years before the organization of Cornell, I had thought much upon the education of women, and had gradually arrived at the conclusion that they might well be admitted to some of the universities established for young men. Yet, at the same time, Herbert Spencer's argument as to the importance of avoiding everything like "mandarinism"--the attempt to force all educational institutions into the same mold--prevented my urging this admission of women upon all universities alike. I recognized obstacles to it in the older institutions which did not exist in the newer; but I had come to believe that where no special difficulties existed, women might well be admitted to university privileges. To this view I had been led by my own observation even in my boyhood. At Cortland Academy I had seen young men and women assembled in the classrooms without difficulty or embarrassment, and at Yale I had seen that the two or three lecture-rooms which admitted women were the most orderly and decent of all; but perhaps the strongest influence in this matter was exercised upon me by my mother. She was one of the most conservative of women, a High-church Episcopalian, and generally averse to modern reforms; but on my talking over with her some of my plans for Cornell University, she said: "I am not so sure about your other ideas, but as to the admission of women you are right. My main educa-

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