Women in Higher Education

By W. Todd Furniss; Patricia Albjerg Graham | Go to book overview

MINA REES


The Graduate Education of Women

At a 1970 meeting called to discuss problems in graduate education at which I was the only woman present, a professor of history from a leading Eastern university turned to me, without any preliminaries, and said, "Why don't those girls write their dissertations?" It developed that he was the one member of his department who insisted on giving fellowships to women, and department members were up in arms because women have been receiving fellowships for several years and not one had completed her dissertation. I was a bit dismayed by the sudden attack, and riposted with, "Why don't you appoint a woman graduate dean?" This suggestion seemed a little radical to my questioner; but it may be that Representative Martha Griffiths of Michigan was right when she suggested, in 1970, that what we need is heroines. Nonetheless, the complaint is common on many campuses, and I want to focus on this point and other myths and realities in the graduate education of women.

The problems of graduate school women differ for unmarried women recently out of college and for married women with children (both those who return while their children are young and those who postpone graduate work until their children are in school). The most striking difference seems to stem from the attitudes of faculties toward granting financial assistance, and it is closely related to the ability of a woman to study full time (though often the attitude of the usually male faculty toward the appropriateness of graduate work for a married woman plays an important role). A married woman has additional problems, even if the university will permit her to study part time. Are courses available at times and places that fit her schedule (different women have different needs)? Is there a day care center where she can leave her young children? Is there any possibility of getting some financial assistance even though she is a part-time student?

For those young women who enter graduate school without

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