Historical Dictionary of Women's Education in the United States

Historical Dictionary of Women's Education in the United States

Historical Dictionary of Women's Education in the United States

Historical Dictionary of Women's Education in the United States

Synopsis

Nearly 250 alphabetically arranged entries examine significant ideas, events, movements, institutions, and persons in the history of women's education in the United States from the colonial period through the 20th century.

Excerpt

The story of women's education in the United States is a continuous effort to move from the periphery to the mainstream in both formal institutions and informal opportunities. Because their needs seemed different and insignificant, and their very intelligence was questioned, females were seldom welcomed into schools or colleges. In response, they developed a two-pronged approach of separatism. While never abandoning the effort to open traditional educational doors, women created their own separate institutions. Thus, women's colleges and normal schools* for teacher training paralleled the older or better-known colleges and universities that trained men for business and the professions. Simultaneously, women used the separate spheres* of influence that had been designated for them since colonial times, taking advantage of the informal power ceded to them in domestic, familial, and religious arenas. There they created and educated themselves through nonschool opportunities and associations to become better mothers and community leaders. Organizations as diverse as the Girl Scouts,* the National Council of Negro Women,* the General Federation of Women's Clubs,* and the National College Equal Suffrage League* provided women opportunities to expand both their knowledge and skill.

A full story of women's educational history winds through both recognized and little-known leaders and settings and is not always a tale of continuous progress. Although some measures show steady improvement—for example, the female literacy* rate or graduation from schools and colleges—other issues recur with disturbing frequency, such as the continued push for full support of women's institutions and the ongoing battle for access and equity. The 1990s are demonstrating renewed struggles around affirmative action,* family values, and welfare, all issues that recur in the history of women's push for educational parity.

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