“But Where Are
All the Women?”:
When the University of Washington's journalism department was searching for a faculty member to teach advertising in 1916, Professor Frank Kane wrote to Walter Williams, the dean of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, asking him to recommend someone for the position. Williams replied: “The best man among our journalism graduates this year for the place you have in mind is a woman. ” Her name was Merze Marvin, Williams said, but “I do not think you have the nerve to appoint her to the position—I am sure I would not. She is, however, especially well qualified. ” Indeed, “Her sex is her only drawback. ” 1
Kane wrote back that he “did not have the nerve to go any further in Miss Marvin's direction, ” despite his personal willingness “to go to the front to battle against the weight of prejudice, inertia and other loads of senseless opposition that limit her cruelly and result in loss to the world. ” The problem, he said, was that “a mountain of proportions is not removed in bulk in a short time. ” But eventually “it can be picked to pieces and the pieces carted off. A strong army strongly entrenched cannot be dislodged easily; however, it can be ‘nibbled’ “ 2 More nibbling—and more nerve—would be necessary, though, before his department would have a woman on its faculty.
If Merze Marvin had been hired by the University of Washington in 1916, she likely would have joined the four-year-old American Association of Teachers of Journalism (AATJ), (predecessor to today's Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication), where she would have found four other women members (out of a total of 107).