Diversity and Equity Schooling Girls and Women

Chapter 5

Diversity and Equity Schooling Girls and Women

Chapter Overview Unlike the preceding chapters of Part 1, each of which emphasized one period in our national history, Chapter 5 examines school and society in several historical eras, from the colonial through the progressive periods. These periods have already been treated in Chapters 2 through 6, yet this chapter is not a review. It focuses on an issue that has appeared too briefly in the preceding chapters: the education of girls and women. Chapter 5 begins with a discussion of the ideological origins of the differential treatment of girls and women in society. Those ideological roots were in part religious. As the chapter notes, it should not be surprising that a nation founded by religious dissenters would show deep religious influences in its political thought and values. We begin with a brief discussion of how the early Christian tradition contributed to justifying differential expectations for men and women in society and schooling. The chapter traces the development of schooling for girls and women from colonial times through the postrevolutionary period, the 19th century, and the major part of the progressive era. In each of those periods, prevailing forms (and absences) of schooling for girls and women are examined in the context of shifts in views about women’s roles in society and the proper preparation for those roles. In the colonial period, the relative absence of girls from schools reflects the dominant view of women that discouraged intellectual development. In the postrevolutionary period, contrasts between boys’ and girls’ schooling show increasing schooling arrangements for girls, but within specific boundaries of preparation for “feminine” work. Emma Willard’s Troy Female Seminary is shown to be an early-19th-century contribution to expanding educational and professional possibilities for women. By the middle of the 19th century, competing viewpoints on the role and education of girls and women had sharpened into identifiable ideological positions—conservative, liberal, and radical—each of which had antecedents in classical liberalism. This discussion of ideological hetero- geneity is illustrated by the two Primary Source Readings, one of which, the Seneca Falls Declaration of 1848, is briefly referenced in the chapter. Nineteenth-century approaches to the higher education of women are discussed, including academies, normal schools, colleges, and high schools. As the 20th century approached, the vocational education movement discussed in Chapters 4 and 6 took on particular significance for the education of girls and women in secondary schools. Chapter 5 will show that a distinctly different position was articulated by the African American intellectual Anna Julia Cooper, an advocate for the


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Introduction: Why a Separate Chapter on Females? Students may justifiably ask why it is necessary to devote a separate chapter to the education of women. Shouldn’t the history of educational thought and the evolution of schooling be examined in a unified, gender-free treatment? Until recently this was the manner in which educational history was usually examined. Such examinations, however, ignore an important reality: the education of females in our culture, as in many cultures, has been importantly different, both in purpose and content, from the education of males. General statements about the history of education, then, may be misleading if they do not specifically attend to the experiences of girls as well as boys, women as well as men. While we have pointed out the significance of gender in specific instances in each chapter thus far, a more comprehensive treatment is needed to provide context for those instances. This chapter will provide an overview of the history of women’s education to delineate the aspirations, limitations, and opportunities that American society held for half of its population through the first part of the 20th century. These gender themes will be revisited repeatedly in Part 2 of the text, but this is the only chapter to attempt a comprehensive overview of the evolution of the education of girls and women in the United States. Writing in the last decade of the 18th century, the Englishwoman Mary Wollstonecraft exposed her era’s view of female education in observations such as the following: How grossly do they insult us who thus advise us to render ourselves gentile, domestic brutes! For instance, the winning softness so warmly, and frequently, recommended, that governs by obeying. . . . [A]ll writers who have written on the subject of female education and manners . . . have contributed to render women more artificial, weak characters, than they would otherwise have been, more useless members of society. . . . [M]y objection extends to the whole purport of those books, which tend, in my opinion, to degrade one half of the human species, and render women pleasing at the expense of every solid virtue.1 Unfortunately, Wollstonecraft’s assessment remained true for over 100 years. During this period the primary goal of female education was to render women pleasing as wives and effective as mothers. The underlying assumptions behind this view were that women were fundamentally different from and inferior to men and


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 126). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

consequently posed a danger to men. This assumption seems to have been tacitly accepted, apart from exceptions like Wollstonecraft, by both female and male proponents of women’s education. This is not as surprising as one might think. Even today, evidence of belief in fundamental differences between the sexes and the idea of inherent inferiority of women can be found in many dimensions of our culture, as we shall see. Ideological Origins in Early Christianity In a country founded by religious dissenters, it is not surprising to find origins of basic ideological commitments in religious traditions. We have seen, for example, how such dimensions of classical liberalism as rationality and virtue were ascribed differently to men and women by liberals in Jefferson’s era. This bias had roots in Christianity. The point of this discussion is not that institutional Christianity has historically justified the subordination of women more than other religions have. Nor do we suggest that Christianity is the primary cause of social and political biases against women. Rather, we are noting that religious values contribute importantly to social ideology—and that the founding religious values and institutions of European America were Christian. Early in the Christian era the tone for gender discussion was set by the apostle Paul in his instructions to Timothy regarding church organization. Paul said, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. For I do not allow a woman to teach, or go to exercise authority over men; but she is to keep quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and was in sin. Yet women will be saved by childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with modesty.”2 In this epistle Paul asserted the superiority of male over female because of Adam’s earlier creation and Eve’s submission to the temptations of the serpent. It would take another four centuries before the full implications of Paul’s assertion would become central to Christian gender considerations. One of the most significant developments in Western civilization’s attitude toward gender occurred in the first part of the 5th century a.d. At that time, against the vigorous opposition of Pelagius and his followers, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, successfully overturned previous Christian interpretations of Genesis 3. Contrary to over four centuries of Christian teaching, Augustine held that the story of the Fall meant that the sin of Adam was transmitted from the first parents through sexual reproduction to all future humans, and because of that “originalsin,” subsequent humanity was incapable of exercising free will. This interpretation placed a heavy burden on Eve in particular and women in general. She was, in this tradition, the first one to succumb to the temptations of the serpent. Being created out of Adam’s body, Eve was purportedly more prone to bodily or sexual passion and thus easier to seduce. In Augustine’s words, the serpent had deceitful conversation with the woman—no doubt starting with the inferior of the human pair so as to arrive at the whole by stages, supposing The idea of women’s rational inferiority to men and their consequent need for a less rigorous education was supported by the Christian belief that Eve, who was presumed to be more sensual and less rational than Adam, was chosen for seduction by the serpent.


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 127). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

that the man would not be as gullible.4 Moreover, in this interpretation it was Eve who then persuaded Adam to join in her sin and thus condemned all future generations of humans. Historian Elaine Pagels succinctly summarizes the gender ramifications of Augustine’s interpretation of Genesis 3: Although originally created equal to man in regard to her rational soul, woman’s formation from Adam’s rib established her as the “weaker part of the human couple.” Being closely connected with bodily passion, woman, although created to be man’s helper, became his temptress and led him into disaster. The Genesis account describes the result: God himself reinforced the husband’s authority over his wife, placing divine sanction upon the social, legal, and economic machinery of male domination.5 Augustine’s division of humankind into two inherently different kinds of beings contained all the necessary components for religiously justifying the subjugation of women and their inferior education for the next 15 centuries. Women were seen as complementary to, but different from, men. Properly fitted with men, women were the completing portion of humanity. They were seen as passionate and nurturing, while men were seen as rational and reserved. Women were prone to mercy, men to justice. Women were fitted for the domicile, men for work and public life. Men were to govern, women to obey. Because of their deficiency in rational capacity and unstable emotional nature, women were to be subject to the more rational nature of their fathers and later, their husbands. Gender and Education in Colonial America It was this Augustinian legacy that formed the consciousness and guided the gender behavior of most colonial and 19th-century Americans.6 At their best, White Americans were concerned with educating their sons to become productive workers, effective political agents, and independent rational actors. However, when they thought of education for their daughters, the concern was to prepare them as wives and mothers, not as independent, rational beings. As long as the home remained the primary economic unit in society, most of a girl’s education could be obtained there, emulating her mother and obeying her father. As described in Chapter 2, Americans began to develop schools for their sons early in the colonial era. Public elementary schools became common in New England, and a few colleges, such as Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, and Kings, were scattered among the colonies. Women were not admitted to the colleges and were only grudgingly admitted to the public elementary schools around the time of the Revolution. Most early school committees believed that the admission of girls to the common schools was “inconsistent with the design” of those schools.7 Most girls who learned to read did so at home. Of course, such home schooling greatly disadvantaged girls whose parents were illiterate or unwilling to teach them to read and write. Early colonial school records are scanty and obscure regarding the education of girls. Two historians, after searching the records of nearly 200 New England towns, could find only seven that had definitely voted to allow girls to attend common schools before the 1770s.8 Among the earliest were Dorchester, Massachusetts (1639), Hampton, New Hampshire (1649), Ipswic h, Massachusetts (1669), and Wallingford, Connecticut (1678). Only in the last two towns is there any evidence that girls actually attended those schools before the revolutionary era. Generally, when girls were given permission to attend a common school, they were only allowed to do so when boys were absent. For example, London, Connecticut, allowed girls to receive instruction from 5 to 7 a.m. during the summer of 1774.9 Two years later Medford, Massachusetts, permitted girls to receive instruction from the schoolmaster two hours a day after the boys were dismissed. Later, in 1787, the Medford girls were admitted for instruction for one hour each morning and afternoon when the boys were not in attendance. Three years later the girls received instruction during the three summer months. Similar arrangements were common in other New England towns, such as Newburyport, Essex, and Salem, during the late colonial era. Not until 1834, two years before Horace Mann began his common-schooling campaign in Massachusetts, were Medford boys and girls allowed to attend the common school together during the entire school year.10 In 1900 George Martin succinctly summarized the history of girls’ education in the American colonies and the new nation: First, during the first one hundred and fifty years of colonial history girls did not attend the public schools, except in some of the smaller towns, and there only for a short time; second, about the time of the Revolution, the subject of the education of girls was widely agitated; third, against much opposition the experiment of sending girls to the master’s


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 128). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

school for a few hours in a day during a part of the year, but never in the same rooms or at the same times with the boys; fourth, this provision extended only to the English schools, no instruction being provided in Latin or even in the higher English branches; fifth, it was not until the present century [i.e., the 19th] was far advanced that girls and boys shared alike the advantages of the higher public schools.11 Martin’s dismal picture of early female education has not been much improved by subsequent historical investigations. With rare exceptions girls were barred from public schooling from the 1630s to the eve of the Revolution. The exceptions occurred in religious communities that were not dominated by the Augustinian tradition. For example, the Quakers and Moravians, principally in Pennsylvania and the Carolinas, did provide elementary education for girls.12 This 150-year exclusion of girls from American public schools was not the result of neglect or oversight but rather the result of two factors. First, it was not considered necessary to educate girls in an agrarian and frontier society when only few people required education. Just as important, however, was the common belief that females were basically unsuited for intellectual activities. On April 13, 1645, John Winthrop, the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote the following entry in his journal: Mr. Hopkins, the governor of Hartford upon Connecticut, came to Boston, and brought his wife with him (a godly young woman, and of special parts), who was fallen into a sad infirmity which had been growing upon her divers years, by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing, and had written many books. Her husband, being very loving and tender of her, was loath to grieve her; but he saw his error, when it was too late. For if she had attended her household affairs, and such things as belong to women, and not gone out of her way and calling to meddle in such things as are proper for men, whose minds are stronger, etc., she had kept her wits, and might have improved them usefully and honorably in the place God had set her.13


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 129). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

The historical record tells us that Governor Win throp’s view of women’s appropriate place was clearly that of the majority. Nevertheless, in the face of considerable odds, some women were able to develop their intellectual interests during this 150-year era. The poetess Anne Bradstreet was taught by her father, Governor Dudley. Mercy Warren was tutored along with her brother by Rev. Jonathan Russell. Most remarkable, perhaps, was Phillis Wheatley, an African American slave girl in Boston, who during the 1760s taught herself to read English and Latin and write poetry. Other colonial women of extraordinary intellectual attainment included Anne Hutchinson, Elizabeth Ferguson, Debora Logan, Susanna Wright, Hanna Means, and Mrs. Stockton.14 For most colonial women, however, there was no formal education, only the hope of rudimentary literacy acquired in the home from a literate and willing parent. Consequently, most colonial women remained illiterate. Private Schools Those colonial women who managed to acquire an education were overwhelmingly from affluent homes. Many of them were educated by tutors in the home. Others attended private female seminaries and academies. These private secondary institutions began to develop in the second quarter of the 18th century. Most were boarding schools. The Ursuline Convent for girls, established in New Orleans in 1727, was perhaps the earliest. Soon after, in 1742, the Bethlehem Female Seminary began educating girls in Pennsylvania. During the first half of the 19th century a large number of these female seminaries came into existence; the most respected were in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Salem, Massachusetts; Troy, New York; and Endicott Mills, New York.15 Unfortunately, many of these female institutions were more interested in fitting girls for marriage than in developing their minds. Much of the training focused on so-called polite accomplishments, such as dancing, music, drawing, and needlework.16 The social skills that dominated the formal education of colonial women flowed logically from contemporary opinion. Most colonial Americans believed that the only appropriate goal for a woman was matrimony. Typical of this attitude was the following poem, which appeared in 1805 in the North Carolina Journal: When first the nymph within her breast Perceives the subtle flame, She feels a something break her rest, Yet knows not whence it came, A husband ’tis she wants.17 Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice provides a depressing account of the probable state of mind of many young women in this description of Charlotte Lucas just after she announced her engagement to Mr. Collins: The whole family . . . were properly overjoyed on the occasion. . . . [Her brothers] were relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte’s dying an old maid. . . . Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither amiable nor agreeable; his society was irksome and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be a husband. Without thinking highly of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object: it was the only honorable provision for well educated young women of small fortune, and, however uncertain of giving happiness, must be a pleasant preservation from want. This preservation she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without ever having been handsome, she felt the good luck of it.18 If marriage was the approved goal for girls, it was understandable, perhaps, that a male-dominated society would try to fit women into the roles demanded by men. In early America, “a learned wife” was not sought after. A colonial poem often recommended to young women put this very clearly: One did commend to me a wife both fair and young That had French, Spanish, and Italian tongue. I thanked him kindly and told him I loved none such, For I thought one tongue for a wife too much, What! love ye not the learned? Yes, as my life, A learned scholar, but not a learned wife.19 An interesting feature of this poem is its evidence of the belief that women were capable of intellectual development but that it was not a feature men desired in them. The Revolution and the Cult of Domesticity Although the Revolution changed much in American society, it did not challenge most prevailing assumptions about the education of women. But independence brought considerable discussion about how a new nation could be forged, and that discussion would eventually bring about changes in the education of girls. As we


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 130). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

saw in Chapter 2, the idea of using public schooling to build the nation was a major new concern.20 Analysis of the requisite education for boys centered on (1) their future role as republican citizens, especially as informed voters, and (2) their role as economic agents, especially as producers. These considerations were not applied in the same way to girls, whose productive role would be limited to the family. It was their future role as wives and mothers that after the Revolution focused the discussion of appropriate female education. This nurturing role was to dominate thinking about girls’ education until well into the 20th century. By the 1820s many articles devoted to the “female role” appeared in educational journals such as the Annals of Education, the Common School Journal, and the American Journal of Education. Additionally, there appeared numerous books, such as Coxe’s Claims of the Country on American Females, Butler’s The American Lady, and Todd’s The Daughter at School. These authors argued that women’s first responsibility was to provide for the comfort and solace of husbands, who faced an increasingly competitive and inhospitable economic world. Beyond this, they should attempt to improve the manners and morals of society by teaching and by example, and guide the development of the future generation during the early years of childhood.21 Twentieth-century historians would name this shift in the understanding of the female role the “cult of domesticity.”22 It would provide a rationale for the formal education of increasing numbers of girls and young women in the new nation, rendering obsolete the colonial view that girls were simply not in need of schooling. This cult of domesticity was first aimed at middle and upper-class women, but in time its effects were felt in all but the lowest social classes. It was a double-edged sword. By considering homemaking and nurturing teaching roles to be exclusively female, it encouraged the view that women should be educated. However, because of women’s supposedly nurturing nature and the limits within which this nature was to be exercised, the education offered women was confined to the nurturing roles of wife, early educator, and moral exemplar.23 It is fair to conclude that 19th-century Americans had not advanced much beyond Martin Luther’s 16thcentury admonition, “The world has need of educated men and women to the end that men may govern the


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 131). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

country properly and women may bring up their children, care for their domestics, and direct the affairs of their households.”24 Growing out of the combined cultural influences of sexist religious views, capitalism, and planning for nationhood d, the cult of domesticity had a profound effect on female education. If women were to form morals and manners and provide initial education for children, they required some formal education. Consequently, most communities in the Northeast slowly began admitting girls to the common schools during the first quarter of the 19th century. The effect of this increased educational opportunity can be seen in the greatly increased rate of female literacy during this era.25 As access to elementary schooling gradually was secured, proponents of female education turned to higher education. During the 19th century higher education was less well defined than it is currently. Any schooling beyond the common school was considered higher. The “ladder’’ system, with secondary schools serving as a prerequisite for collegiate training, was not established until late in the century. Academies, seminaries, normal schools, the new public high schools, and colleges all offered what was considered higher education, and often they were seen as competing institutions. Women’s access to these institutions and the curricula women were to be afforded constituted the major controversies concerning female education during the 19th century. Competing Ideological Perspectives in the Nineteenth Century Martha Maclear has shown that “three distinct currents of thought regarding the education of girls” emerged in the first half of the 19th century. The first current was that of the right wing, or conservatives, who wanted to maintain the status quo. The center, or liberals, while accepting the existing definitions of the appropriate female role, attempted to interpret those definitions in ways that would improve educational opportunities for women. Finally, radical, or left-wing, groups demanded both a new, expanded definition of female roles and the new education appropriate to the expanded opportunities they envisioned for women.26 Both the conservative and liberal positions stood squarely within classical liberal ideology, with the liberals emphasizing progress through change and the conservatives emphasizing traditional notions of female virtue. The radical position, however, challenged both streams of classical liberal thinking on the education of women and their role in society. Yet it, too, relied on such classical liberal constructs as natural law, rationality, and freedom in opposing the ideological mainstream. The Conservative and Liberal Positions The conservative position was typified by William Johnson, Esq., in an 1845 edition of the Literary Emporium. He offered the timeworn male-centric advice: “Women’s chief ambition is gratified by a single conquest: the scope of her happiness and usefulness is circumscribed by the domestic and social circle. Beyond this, her influence is only felt by its moral reflection on the hearts and lives of mankind. Nor is this the result of any system of education—it is a distinguishing circumstance in her existence—one which God never intended to be otherwise.”27 The liberals similarly held that women’s destined role was exclusively as wife, mother, teacher of the young, and moral exemplar. Nevertheless, they differed from the conservatives by arguing that those roles required more and better education than was currently available for girls. No doubt America’s growing trend toward a liberal Protestantism, exemplified by the transcendentalism of Emerson and the theology of Bushnell, made their arguments more palatable. This liberalizing trend deemphasized original sin and the evil side of human nature, lessening the special sin of Eve and its resulting stain on all women. Leaders of the liberal wing included Benjamin Rush, Emma Willard, Horace Mann, Catharine Beecher, and Mary Lyon.28 Benjamin Rush provided the prototype program for female education in his “Thoughts on Female Education” at the beginning of the 19th century. He contended that women should be the stewards of their husband’s wealth, homemakers, and child caregivers. To fulfill those duties adequately, Rush proposed an education that included the English language, handwriting, arithmetic, bookkeeping, beginning astronomy, chemistry, natural philosophy, dancing, Christian religion, geography, and history. The last two subjects he recommended so “she might become an agreeable companion to a sensible man.” Rush concluded his essay with the admonition to men that “a weak and ignorant woman will always be governed with the greatest difficulty.”29 Horace Mann, who championed women’s higher education in normal schools, announced the limitations


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 132). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

that the liberals would project for women in an 1838 article in the Common School Journal. In advocating women’s special role in the “peaceful ministry” of teachers of the young, he said: And why should women, lured by false ambition to shine in courts or to mingle in the clashing tumult of men, ever disdain this sacred and peaceful ministry? Why, renouncing this serene and blessed sphere of duty, should she ever lift up her voice in the thronged marketplace of society, haggling and huckstering to barter away that divine and acknowledged superiority in sentiment which belongs to her own sex, to exhort confessions from the other of a mere equality in reason? Why, in selfabasemen t, should she ever strive to put off the sublime affections and the ever-bearing beauty of a seraph, that she may clothe a coarser, though it should be a stronger spirit, in the stalwart limbs and highness of a giant? . . . If the intellect of women, like that of a man, has the sharpness and the penetration of steel or iron, it must also be as cold and hard. No! but to breathe pure and exalted sentiments into young and tender hearts . . . to take the censers which Heaven gives and kindle the incense which Heaven loves . . . this is her high and holy mission.30 It was not only men like Rush and Mann who promoted women’s education in order to make women more effective in their “female” roles. Many liberal women shared the prevailing view of their social role and resulting education. During the 1830s the noted educator Mrs. Phillips similarly noted, “To females geology is chiefly important, by its effect in enlarging their sphere of thought, rendering them more interesting as companions to men of science, and better capable of instructing the young.”31 Moreover, the female leaders of the liberals accepted the traditional role for women. Emma Willard’s memorandum to Governor Clinton of New York, requesting that the state provide normal schools for women, argued for women’s nurturing role on the basis of natural law: “That nature designed our sex for the care of children, she has made manifest, by mental as well as physical indications.” Moreover, Willard concluded, not only would women teach better than men, “they could afford to do it cheaper, and those men who would otherwise be engaged in this employment, might be at liberty to add to the wealth of the nation, by any of those thousand occupations, from which women are necessarily debarred.”32 Catharine Beecher, whose career as a proponent of women’s education spanned most of the 19th century, said, “Heaven had appointed one sex superior and to the other the subordinate station.”33 And throughout her career she maintained that all education for women must center on some phase of domestic training or teaching. It might be argued that the liberals developed a pragmatic program that was intended to achieve all that was possible within the constraints of popular prejudice. And they did achieve notable advances for women’s education


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 133). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

during the century. Nevertheless, their writings seem to indicate an acceptance of the common assumptions regarding the inherent and fundamental division of the sexes that ultimately restricts the life possibilities for women. The belief that national, ethnic, cultural, economic, racial, or gender groups possess some inherent social, emotional, moral, or intellectual characteristic(s) has been endemic in American history. It is based on unwarranted and malevolent assumptions. Almost universally this belief has been used to justify political, economic, or educational exclusion, which in turn fosters subordination and repression. Such assumptions continue to hamper women’s full development as equals rather than as subordinates to men. The Radical Position The idea that a political or ideological position is “radical” stems from that word’s meaning: “of or pertaining to the root.” Radical thinking seeks to get to the root of a problem, and radical solutions thus require fundamental changes. While the liberals and the conservatives described by Maclear held similar views of women’s role as wife, mother, teacher of the young, and moral exemplar, the radicals demanded a dramatically new vision of women’s place in society: they demanded gender equality. The earliest expressions of these views were by such women as Frances Wright, Sarah M. Grimke, Margaret Fuller, and Ernestine Rose.34 Grimke, writing in 1837, set the tone for the radical response to conservatives and liberals by constructing a different interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve: Adam’s ready acquiescence with his wife’s proposal, does not savor much of that superiority in strength of mind which is arrogated by man. . . . I ask no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is, that they take their feet from off our necks and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy. . . . All history attests that man has subjected woman to his will, used her as a means to promote his selfish gratification, to minister to his sensual pleasures, to be instrumental in promoting his comfort; but never has he desired to elevate her to that rank she was created to fill. He has done all he could to debase and enslave her mind; and now he looks triumphantly on the ruin he has wrought, and says, the being he has thus deeply injured is his inferior.35 The symbolic beginning of the radical women’s movement can be located later, at the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention of 1848. As Gertrude Martin has shown, this was more than simply a demand for the vote; it envisioned the opening of higher education on an equal basis to women and subsequent equality in all occupations.36 The radicals were led by Susan B. Anthon y, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, Sojourner Truth, Victoria Woodhull, Matthew Vassar, and Wendell Phillips. They formed a public resistance, which continues in various forms to the present, against male privilege and dominance in such institutions as the ballot box, the professions, and collegiate education. The convention’s Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions in the first Primary Source Reading at the end of this chapter illustrates the thinking of the leadership of the Seneca Falls convention, particularly its conscious appeal to the classical liberal ideals of rationality, natural law, and freedom. Catharine Beecher: The Liberal Education of the Homemaker These general ideological trends are easy to support as historical types, but when applied to the life of an extraordinary individual, the general is less illuminating than the particular. Catharine Beecher (1800–1878) was such an extraordinary individual. Her father Lyman was one of the nation’s best-known preachers, her brother Henry Ward Beecher was more famous still, and her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Catharine Beecher was an influential teacher and educational theorist whose work embraced commitments to liberal democracy, Christianity, and female domesticity and subordination. Her book, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, is on the one hand a discourse on the nature and duties of women in the home, as the title implies, and thus appears on its face to be conservative. But it goes well beyond that to emphasize the liberal education of women’s God-given rational capacities. They were to exercise their developed reason and character in their domestic sphere, as she termed it, while males exercised their rational capacities in the public spheres of citizenship, politics, and work outside the home. Like other liberal educational and social theorists of her time, Beecher did not challenge the second-class status of women in public life. She more than once defended that status for women, saying that “the highest degree of happiness” in the wife’s relationship to the husband


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 134). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

is one involving “the duties of subordination,” at least in public and political affairs. She elaborates: In this country, it is established, both by opinion and by practice, that woman has an equal interest in all social and civil concerns; and that no domestic, civil, or political institution, is right, which sacrifices her interest to promote that of the other sex. But in order to secure her the more firmly in all these privileges, it is decided that, in the domestic relation, she take a subordinate state, and that, in civil and political concerns, her interest be intrusted [sic] to the other sex, without her taking any part in voting, or in making and administering laws.37 Nonetheless, Beecher embraced democratic ideals and believed women had a critical role to play in supporting them. Beecher believed that “the principals of democracy, then, are identical with the principals of Christianity.” She arrived at this conviction partly because she believed that the moral core of the Golden Rule (“treat others as you would have them treat you”) had the same moral core as the democratic principle that “all men are created equal.” The role for women in democratic life becomes clear in this passage: The success of democratic institutions, as is conceded by all, depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the mass of the people. If they are intelligent and virtuous, democracy is a blessing; but if they are ignorant and wicked, it is only a curse, and as much more dreadful than any other form of civil government, as a thousand tyrants, are more to be dreaded than one. It is equally conceded that the formation of the moral and intellectual character of the young is committed mainly to the female hand. The mother forms the character of the future man . . . the wife sways the heart, whose energies may turn for good or for evil the destinies of a nation. Let the women of a country be made virtuous and intelligent, and the men will certainly be the same. The proper education of a man decides the welfare of an individual; but educate a woman, and the interests of a whole family are secured. Beecher’s educational and social vision may rightly be considered liberal because although it values a new education for women to develop their rational capacities, it does not challenge the established order, as the radical position would. It was a middle-class ideal, in that the household she envisions assumes that the well-educated woman supervises domestic servants. If there is a radical potential in her viewpoint, however, it lies in the education for women she proposes: an education not constrained by a narrow view of the role of women in the home, but by the belief that (1) the range of intellectual and moral qualities needed to be the ideal wife and mother and administrator of the household requires the broadest and deepest education possible, with depth specifically in knowledge of domestic sciences; and (2) that such an education will ensure the development of the critical, rational capacities that all humans are capable of, rather than a mere training for the domestic role, however demanding that role might be. To accomplish such educational goals, Beecher recommended for girls after age 14 two hours a day of domestic chores and “a system of Calisthenic exercises.” She had a faculty psychology (see Chapter 2) view of rigorous study in the disciplines, in which “the mere acquisition of facts . . . should be made of altogether secondary account.” Instead, by studying “the same textbooks are used as are required at our best colleges,” in mathematics, English grammar, history, philosophy, chemistry, astronomy, botany, geology, political economy, and Christianity, as well as other disciplines, higher-order thinking skills would be developed. As Beecher wrote: The formation of habits of investigation, of correct reasonin g, of persevering attention, of regular system, of accurateanalysis, and of vigorous mental action, is the primary object to be sought in preparing American women for their arduous duties. In addition to a first-rate liberal education, Beecher believed young women should also pursue domestic science education and physical education. She placed a great emphasis on the physical health of girls and women, and advocated never more than an hour of classroom “confinement” without following that with “sports in the open air.” And as for “domestic sciences,” Beecher believed that proper homemaking and parenting was worthy of a professional level of study—that the knowledge base needed by the successful homemaker was equal to the knowledge base of the established professions. But are not the most responsible of all duties committed to the charge of woman? Is not her profession to take care of mind, body, and soul? And that, too, at the most critical of all periods of existence? And is it not as much a matter of public concern, that she should be properly qualified for her duties, as that ministers, lawyers, and physicians should be prepared for theirs? And is it not as important to endow institutions which shall make a superior education accessible to all classes—for females, as for the other sex?


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 135). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

Contemporary philosopher Jane Roland Martin observes that this idea, that an important body of knowledge should inform the nurturing functions expected by women, is a turning point in educational and social thought. She writes, “In introducing the concept of professionalism into women’s education and women’s work, Beecher is trying to transform both the traditional female role and the education intended for it.”38 That observation is an important one when we recognize that today there are those who question whether there really is a professional knowledge base in teaching, long considered “women’s work” and long considered to be work that almost any educated person can do. These issues will be examined further in Chapter 10. Ideology and Life: Emma Willard Perhaps even more prominent an educator than Beecher was Emma Hart Willard. A brief examination of her life and work may help us better understand 19thcenturyconservative, liberal, and radical views regarding women. This biographical examination may also show that historical judgment is neither easy nor unambiguous. A cursory analysis of the ideological positions may suggest that the liberal position of Emma Willard was detrimental to women’s education and their position in society. A closer examination, however, suggests that a more complex judgment is needed. Emma Willard was born in 1787 in Berlin, Connecticut.39 Her father, Samuel Hart, had been a captain in the revolutionary army. At the evening circle around the fireplace he shared with his family his great love for books, especially literature, history, political theory, and philosophy. As the 16th child, young Emma learned to participate in the evening discussions and acquired a lifelong love for learning. In many ways her early life was similar to that of her contemporary Horace Mann. Both were New Englanders born to farm life. She, like Horace, also attended the district elementary school. When Emma was 15, a new town academy opened at Worthington. She and her older sister Nancy entered it and studied for two years with Thomas Minter, a recent Yale graduate.40 Upon leaving the academy, Emma Hart began her teaching career. At age 17 she was employed to teach in Berlin’s district summer school, and a year later in its winter session. This appointment to the winter session stands as strong testimony to the village’s positive assessment of her teaching ability, for it was quite unusual for a woman to be allowed to teach during the winter session in district schools at that time. She soon had advanced from the village school to the Berlin Academy and from there to Westfield Academy and in 1807 to Middlebury. It was in Middlebury that she met Dr. John Willard, who had left medicine for politics. In 1809, although 28 years his junior, she married Dr. Willard and temporarily left teaching. The next four years were important for Emma’s intellectual development. She apparently spent considerable time studying her husband’s medical books in an effort to become conversant with his interests. Lacking access to higher education institutions, 19th-century women intellectuals often educated themselves through the resources available to a father, brother, or husband. Emma Willard had the advantage of a supportive father and a supportive husband. Additionally, Dr. Willard’s nephew, John Willard, lived with them while he attended Middlebury College. Emma and John spent considerable time discussing his college studies, and she eagerly read his course texts. Without doubt, this exchange illuminated for Emma the world of learning from which she and nearly all other young women were excluded. The birth of her son, John Hart Willard, in 1810 introduced her to the complexities of parenting. These activities would have lasting significance for her intellectual outlook. A New Vision for Women’s Education By 1813 Dr. Willard’s financial and political fortunes declined. In part to relieve her husband’s financial woes, Emma returned to teaching, opening a boarding school for girls in their home. The following five years were instrumental in developing her educational ideas. Her school offered instruction more advanced than any then available in the United States for girls. In addition to the usual “refinements” of manners, she taught mathematics, geography, science, history, and languages. Because neighboring Middlebury College refused to allow her students to attend any of its courses, Emma was forced to teach all the courses in her school. This meant that she was not only required to train teachers but in some instances needed to learn new subjects herself. This self-education in new subjects at an everincreasing level of complexity became a hallmark of her teaching career. It reinforced her earlier belief that women were capable of higher learning. Moreover, it


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 136). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

led her to develop innovative teaching methods and materials. Soon her school had over 70 students, of whom 40 were boarders. It was during this time that Willard systematically began to collect her ideas on female education. The result was a thesis she titled “A Plan for Improving Female Education,” which she eventually sent to Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York in 1818. She published it under the title “An Address to the Public: Particularly to the Members of the Legislature of New York, Proposing a Plan for Improving Female Education.” The Plan quickly attracted attention in the United States, although it stimulated little action. It even achieved international acclaim when the English educator, George Combe, published it in his Phrenological Journal.41 Combe’s phrenological theory would later be embraced by Horace Mann. The primary purpose of the Plan was to convince the voters and legislators—males—to provide public funds for higher education for women. Toward this end Willard organized the Plan in four categories. The first deplored the existing state of female education. She pointed out that in most places opportunity for higher education did not exist for women. In the few places where it did, the schools were woefully inadequate. They were poorly funded and therefore temporary institutions with insufficient physical facilities. Moreover, these were “finishing” schools, which emphasized superficial social refinements and not intellectual attainments or sound moral qualities. Nowhere in the United States could young women receive an education even roughly equivalent to that offered in the abundant colleges for young men. Only when female schools received public funds could they be established on a permanent basis with resources to provide an adequate education. The second aspect of Willard’s Plan analyzed the principles that should regulate female education. Most important, she asserted: “Education should seek to bring its subjects to the perfection of their moral, intellectual and physical nature, that they may be of the greatest possible use to themselves and others.”42 A major error in existing female education, she argued, was that it sought to prepare females mainly to please men rather than to prepare them as humans. Willard quickly added, “I would not be understood to insinuate, that we are not, in particular situations, to yield to obedience to the other sex. Submission and obedience belong to every being in the universe, except the great Master of the whole. Nor is it a degrading peculiarity to our sex, to be under human authority. Whenever one class of human beings, derive from another the benefits of support and protection, they must pay its equivalent, obedience. . . . Neither would I be understood to mean, that our sex should not seek to make themselves agreeable to the other. The error complained of, is that of the taste of men, whatever it might happen to be has been made a standard for the formation of female character.”43 She went on to note that the education advocated for females was to be likened to that for males in its permanency and uniformity of operation, yet “adapted to the difference in character and duties” of females. To emphasize the difference between male and female higher education she made the distinction between male “colleges” and “female seminaries.” Third, Willard outlined a “sketch of a female seminary.” This seminary would be supported by public funds and include a building holding rooms for student lodging, recitations, scientific apparatus, and a domestic department. It would provide instruction in four areas: religion and morals, literary (this included the usual collegiate intellectual subjects), domestic (probably the first call for home economics instruction in the United States), and ornamental (drawing, painting, penmanship, music, and grace of motion). This proposed instructional program was far superior to any then in existence for females in the United States. The last section of the Plan was titled “Benefits of Female Seminaries.” Willard rightly claimed that the proposed seminaries “would constitute a grade of public instruction superior to any yet known in the history of our sex.”44 The main benefits of this instruction would be felt in two areas: the common schools and the nation at large. The graduates of these seminaries would become teachers in the common schools, where they would raise the level of instruction because of their specific training and Willard’s belief “that nature designed for our sex the care of children.” These seminary graduates “would be likely to teach children better than the other sex,” and as we saw earlier, Willard had an economic argument. Not only could women teach at lower salaries than men, but men would increase productivity in male-dominated occupations because they would not be teaching.45 Moreover, all seminary graduates would greatly lift the moral and cultural level of the nation and thus save it from the slide to barbarism and anarchy commonly predicted by its enemies. This national uplift would be accomplished, she believed, as these seminaries better suited their graduates to be mothers and wives of the nation’s men. The female seminaries would regenerate the nation.


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 137). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

It is interesting how Emma Willard foreshadowed the arguments of Horace Mann for women teachers while representing views that 20th-century historians later called the cult of domesticity, discussed earlier in this chapter. Women had a special role because of their supposed “natural” differences from men, in this domestic perspective. Those differences included being more sensitive, empathetic, devoted to domestic duties and child rearing, and concerned with cultural affairs. These same qualities, which uniquely fitted women as teachers, wives, and mothers, according to her argument, “necessarily debarred” women from other occupations. While the exponents of the cult of domesticity mirrored many of Willard’s ideas, they generally neglected to include her strong belief that women were equal to men in the ability to rationally understand academic subjects. This was a difference of considerable importance. The Troy Female Seminary After the positive reception of her Plan by Governor Clinton and the legislature, Willard was confident enough that the State of New York would fund her proposed seminary to move her school in 1819 from Middlebury , Vermont, to Waterford, New York. This confidence, however, was to prove misplaced. Repeatedly, the all-male legislature refused to appropriate funds for female seminaries. The Waterford school managed with precarious finances for two years. Then the city of Troy offered municipal backing for a female seminary. Willard accepted the offer and in 1821 relocated her school for the last time; it became the Troy Female Seminary. For the next 17 years Willard continued to expand her experiment in female education in the relatively safe haven of the Troy Female Seminary.46 The early years were greatly eased by the role of Dr. Willard, who acted as school doctor, financial director, and sympathetic supporter of his wife. His death in 1825 was not only a severe personal loss, it added a considerable workload to the already overextended headmistress as she assumed the financial management of the growing institution. Willard made significant curricular contributions to 19th-century education. This was a time when most people considered females incapable of serious academic study. Fashionable opinion considered algebra or history beyond the capacity of the female mind, and physiology probably dangerous to it. Respectable authorities believed that if such study did not cripple the weaker female mind, certainly it would misshape it to an “unfeminine” mold. In the face of such attitudes, Willard broadened the curriculum at the Troy Female Seminary and was in the forefront of allowing “electives.”


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 138). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

The required subjects included the Bible, composition, elocution, drawing, and physical education. Among the electives were modern foreign languages (including French, German, Italian, and Spanish), Latin, astronomy, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, geography, history, literature, logic, physiology, and other natural sciences. Not only did she pioneer in adding these subjects to female instruction, but because she was self-taught in most of them, she understood the difficulties of comprehending each subject. This understanding was partially responsible for her innovative instructional methods. Far in advance of most of her 19th-century colleagues, she developed teaching techniques and learning materials that facilitated student involvement and critical analysis rather than rote memorization. While at Troy Seminary, Willard wrote five major geography and history textbooks.47 The geography texts became especially popular and earned considerable royalties.48 They were widely used in female seminaries and in secondary schools for males as well. The preparation of teachers at the Troy Seminary eventually became its most famous function. It occurred, however, almost accidentally. Early in the history of the Seminary, Willard received requests for admission from girls who could not afford the tuition or board. Her response was to provide for what she called “teacher scholars.” These girls were provided tuition, board, and in some cases clothing. In return, they promised to repay the expense after they graduated and were employed as teachers. It was estimated that Willard loaned approximately $75,000 to students during her tenure at Troy.49 Not all the teachers from Troy had been teacher scholars, but this device provided many young women an avenue to an education and a profession. Willard was particularly proud of her role in teacher training: “I continued to educate and send forth teachers, until two hundred had gone from the Troy Seminary before one was educated in any public normal school in the United States.” She called her school the nation’s “first normal school.”50 Troy Female Seminary became so well known for teacher training that Willard’s signature on a letter of recommendation was often a guarantee of employment. It may have functioned as the first teacher certification in the country. Anne Firor Scott estimated that over 1,000 teachers may have been prepared at Troy Seminary by 1863.51 Willard’s normal school had preceded Horace Mann’s by 16 years! Willard’s influence on these teachers did not cease once they left the Seminary. In 1837, the year Mann assumed leadership of the Massachusetts schools, she organized the Emma Willard Association for the Mutual Improvement of Female Teachers. Its purpose was to retain contact through letters and publications with formerstudents in the teaching profession. The communications contained suggestions on a range of topics from pedagogy and textbooks to healthy exercise and sound psychological habits.52 These suggestions seemed to reinforce the lessons Willard taught at the Seminary. In 1898 a group of Troy Seminary alumnae gathered testimonyfrom former students. Over 3,500 of the 12,000 students who had spent time at the Seminary betweenits founding and 1871 responded. From these responses Professor Anne Firor Scott has constructed a convincing portrait of the influence of Willard on her students.53 This portrait suggests that she provided them with a model of female independence fueled by intellectual competence and fiscal independence. Her students were expected to learn subjects previously thought to be “beyond” female comprehension. They were taught self-reliance, to prepare for self-support, and that the “women’s sphere” included the professional work of teaching. This brings us back to the question at the beginning of this section: how do we evaluate the effect of Emma Willard on the history of the United States? She seemed to champion the ideal of a “women’s sphere,” which was to be separate from the male sphere. Her belief in the “special” qualities of women led her to argue for women’s place as mothers and teachers, but these qualities “necessarily debarred” women from other occupations and roles. The patriarchal family and women’s domestic role seemed very dear to her. She admonished her students for even secretly debating the politics of the 1828 election and never fully embraced the idea of suffrage for women.54 All this would seem to bode ill for improving women’s position in society. Phillida Bunkle, without specific reference to Willard, has described this set of ideas as “a sexual ideology,” which was an “antifeminist system of belief [that] dominated the perception of women in the nineteenth century.”55 And yet there is more to say about Willard’s beliefs and achievements. Her Troy Female Seminary educated over 12,000 women and inspired over 200 schools to follow its example. Willard provided a role model for her students and others, exemplifying a self-confident woman who was a successful administrator, author of respected texts, skilled teacher, and independent thinker. Moreover, she cultivated the same qualities in her students. Professor Scott pointedly noted that “nowhere else in


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 139). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.


the country in the 1820s were young women told that they could learn any academic subject, including those hitherto reserved to men, and that they should prepare themselves for self-support and not seek marriage as an end in itself.”56 With this observation Scott has uncovered the most significant contribution of Emma Willard to the education of American women. No doubt Willard did not inspire a “feminist” revolution, but her work provided an ideal of educated women and a critical mass of such women, who would eventually contribute to such a revolution. Anna Julia Cooper No discussion of the history of women’s contributions to education in the United States would be complete without attention to Anna Julia Cooper. Born into slavery in North Carolina in about 1858, just after Booker T. Washington and just before W. E. B. Du Bois and John Dewey were born, Cooper lived over a hundred years, until 1964. A writer and intellectual, she was one of the first African Americans to receive a Ph.D. (in French, at the University of Paris in 1925). Cooper was also a multifaceted educator, serving as a school teacher and principal, and later as president of Frelinghuysen University, a school for working Black residents of Washington, DC. Cooper was also a prominent activist for the rights of African American women. In 1892 she helped organize the Colored Woman’s League of Washington, DC. The following year she and three others were the only Black women to address the Women’s Congress, convened during the world Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1895 she took part in the first meeting of the National Conference of Colored Women, and throughout this period helped edit The Southland magazine, but her greatest publishing achievement had been her book, A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South, in 1892. The article “Womanhood a Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race” was published in A Voice from the South, but it was first a speech given before a convocation of African American clergy in Washington, DC, in 1886. It is not surprising, then, that she framed her remarks on an ideal for educated women within “that rich and bounteous fountain from which flow all our liberal and universal ideals—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”57 For Cooper, as for other educators before her (such as Benjamin Rush or Catharine Beecher) Christian ideals and democratic ideals were a compatible foundation for educational theorizing. Unlike most who had gone before her, however, Cooper argued for the higher education not only of African Americans, but particularly of African American women. She believed that the status of women in society was both a measure of the health of the society and of the capacity of a society to improve itself: “The position of woman in society determines the vital elements of its regeneration and progress. . . . And this is not because woman is better or stronger or wiser than man, but from the nature of the case, because it is she who must first form the man by directing the earliest impulses of his character.” Her position on this was not too dissimilar from Catharine Beecher’s, with the important exception that Cooper specifically was addressing African Americans as part of all womankind. For Cooper, it was self-evident that women influenced social progress throughout “Christendom,” and that it was important to recognize the special responsibility of women in an African American culture that had so recently been enslaved. She wrote: “Now the fundamental agency under God in the regeneration, the retraining of the race, as well as the ground work and the starting point of its progress upward, must be the black woman.” Scholar Renea Henry remarks that Anna Julia Cooper was not alone among Black woman educators in her beliefs, though she may have been the most well known. Henry writes: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, AfricanAmerican women intellectuals have grappled with the same issues dealt with by leading black male intellectuals. Their work has had added significance because they have almost always asserted the inextricable roles of gender and sexuality to the cultural conditions wrought by racial marginality and exclusion.58 Henry goes on to say that Cooper was a part of the Black intellectual community that nourished Du Bois’s own thinking, and that it “seems clear” that Cooper influenced Du Bois, though there is no explicit acknowledgment in Du Bois’s work that would allow identifying direct influence of her ideas. Henry notices that unlike Du Bois, Cooper focused on the education of African American women as means to political and social equality in a racist culture: “Every attempt to elevate the Negro, whether undertaken by himself or through the philanthropy of others, cannot but prove abortive unless so directed as to utilize the indispensable agency of an elevated and trained womanhood.”59 For Cooper, well before Du Bois began fighting for the higher education of African Americans, the educational implication of her position for “the Colored Girls


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 140). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

of the South” was that Black women should be educated as well as any members of society are educated—including becoming “lawyers, doctors, professors” and leaders of various kinds. Higher Education for Women Academies The first inroads for female higher education were made in the academies. Although the first American academy was Franklin’s Academy, established in 1751 in Philadelphia, the “age of the academy” was from 1820 to 1870. The academy was a curious institution. Sometimes it was a church foundation; at other times it was a private venture supported by public subscription or, in some instances, by public tax monies. Thus, it was usually a semipublic school. Its curriculum was so varied that it competed both with the Latin grammar schools and with the colleges. Moreover, it generally offered “practical” subjects such as surveying, pedagogy, and bookkeeping.60 As a new institution, it was not bound to tradition like the colleges and Latin grammar schools. One prominent tradition that it increasingly violated in the 19th century was the exclusion of women. In fact, some academies were founded exclusively for women, including the Moravian’s Friends Academy at Salem, North Carolina, in 1802 and the academies at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1807; Derry, New Hampshire, in 1823; and Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1828. Others were coeducational, such as Bradford Academy (1803) and Friends Academy (1812) at New Bedford, Massachusetts. The most famous, and probably the most rigorous, were Emma Willard’s Troy Female Seminary and Mary Lyon’s Mt. Holyoke Seminary.61 At a time when women were barred from colleges and when public high schools were just beginning, the academies offered women the best opportunities for education beyond the elementary level. The academy, however, had at least three fundamental problems with respect to women’s education. First, attendance was restricted to those who could pay the tuition. Second, the academies reflected the early-19th-century bias against educating girls and boys together, and even many of the coeducational academies educated the girls in separate buildings or separate rooms. In 1852 the trustees of Rome Free Academy in New York were forced to resign due to the angry reaction against their proposal to admit girls to the same classes with boys. Eventually the new trustees enacted a program of “coordinate education” with a female department of the academy in a separate building.62 Third, the girls’ curriculum was usually different from that of the boys, reflecting the reality that “separate” did not mean “equal” in educational resources or goals. In many academies the curriculum continued to focus on “ladylike” subjects.63 Even the Mt. Holyoke curriculum emphasized teaching and domestic pursuits rather than the classical studies considered fundamental for the liberal education of young men. Normal Schools The opening of elementary school teaching to women and the subsequent development of normal schools to train those teachers demonstrate both strengths and weaknesses in the liberal position on female education. On the positive side, liberals such as Horace Mann, Henry Barnard, Dewitt Clinton, Emma Willard, Catharine Beecher, and Mary Lyon successfully opened higher education to women during the first half of the 19th century by establishing both private and state-supported normal schools. Samuel Hall’s private normal school at Concord, New Hampshire (founded in 1823), was a pioneering example. Horace Mann’s efforts to establish state normal schools in Massachusetts were decisive in the drive for trained elementary school teachers in America. A consummate rhetorician, he successfully employed an image of women as inherently nurturing and thus better common-school teachers than men. This public image substantially promoted female attendance at the normal schools, thus opening to tens of thousands of 19th-century American women education beyond the elementary level as well as respectable employment. The primary alternatives for young women at the time were factory work and domestic work in other people’s homes. While this public image of women as natural teachers due to their special nurturing qualities did open some doors to higher education and employment, it also helped keep other doors closed. Most professions, such as law, medicine, and commerce, together with virtually all branches of government, were thought to require such “manly” characteristics as logical reasoning abilities, stern discipline, and a sense of justice based on rationality rather than compassion and mercy. Therefore, while women were welcomed to teaching and to the normal schools, the rationale that justified their entrance into those arenas helped block their entrance into other areas of higher education and the professions. Outside the home and the elementary school, a “motherly” disposition was not a desired quality. Women’s struggle for admission to secondary and collegiate education thus was won at a price.


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 141). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

High Schools The English classical school, soon renamed the high school, began in the second decade of the 19th century as an “effort to create for youth a public institution which would do without cost what the academy had done for a fee.”64 In 1821 Boston opened its English classical school for boys. Five years later the Boston school committee opened a similar school for girls, directed by Ebenezer Bailey. The girls’ school was so successful that it apparently could accommodate only about a quarter of those desiring admittance. However, the committee closed the school after three years, and Boston was without a public high school for girls until 1852, when the Girls’ High School was opened as part of its Normal School.65 Concurrently, George Emerson operated a private English classical school for girls in Boston whose long waiting list for admission was further evidence that Boston’s females desired education beyond the common school.66 The first public high school for girls opened in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1824. It was followed by others in New York City in 1826; North Glastonbury, Connecticut, in 1828; East Hartford, Connecticut, in 1828; Buffalo, New York, in 1828; and Rochester, New York, in 1838. The first coeducational public high school opened in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1841. This example was followed in the 1840s in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont.67 These new high schools clearly extended the educational horizons for females. The Worcester school committee noted that it hoped to “provide an education for girls comparable to that provided for boys in the Latin Grammar School and the English School.”68 Care should be exercised against an overly favorable evaluation of these developments. First, the justification for girls’ high school education almost always followed traditional gender-biased lines. The Salem, Massachusetts, school committee discussed girls’ education in the 1840s, saying: It is a matter of complaint in our city, and seemingly just, that girls have too much intellectual and too little home education. . . . Boys need, strictly speaking, a more intellectual education than girls, since the latter are destined for duties in the home, while the main province of the former, as men, is ever abroad, in the complications of business, requiring the rigid analysis and calculation happily spared to the wife and mother.69 The address by John T. Irving at the opening of New York’s high school for females was typical. He noted that girls must be educated in order to ensure their “domestic happiness,” to make them more “fit companions for their husbands,” and for their role as mothers. He pointed out that “such a judicious selection has been made both of study and employment for the pupils as is suited to their sex, and will prepare them for presiding with skill and prudence in those domestic stations, for which Providence has designed them.” Irving left no doubt regarding the nature of these “divinely” appointed female stations: It would be a great mistake if we were to consider female education as calculated merely to render ladies useful and agreeable companions in domestic life. That is undoubtedly one important object. But it has a higher and nobler purpose: the best and most durable lessons, and the most happy direction which the youthful mind receives, is from the mother. It is her task to inspire her sons with the earliest love of knowledge, to teach them the precepts of religion, the charities of life, the miseries of vice, and to lead them into the paths of a just and honourable ambition.70 In short, female education was still captive to the benefit it would bring to males—husbands and sons. Women were seen as destined exclusively for marriage and motherhood, with a few entering teaching before marriage. Like most visions that divide humanity into subordinate and dominating groups, this vision was rather myopic. By 1845 over 75,000 women were working in the textile industries in the United States. In 1837 women were engaged in over 100 different occupations. Women were listed as employers in many manufacturing and business concerns in the 1840s. By 1880 almost 15 percent of females age 10 or older were gainfully employed, while fewer than 60 percent of women were married.71 Clearly the assumption that all women were “destined for duties of the home” while only men were to encounter the “complications of business” was less warranted by facts than by the wishful imagination of contemporary commentators. A second cautionary note regards the limited impact of secondary education in the 19th century. By 1872 girls attending high school outnumbered boys by 43,794 to 37,978, but this figure represents less than 4 percent of the total number of girls age 15 to 18. By 1890 female graduates of public high schools outnumbered males by nearly three to two, but the figures represent less than 10 percent of the total high-school-age population in the United States at that time.72 Finally, during the 19th


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 142). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

century high school attendance was generally limited to the most affluent. Colleges A fourth battlefield for female advancement in higher education was the American college. In 1836 six young women interviewed President Quincy in his office at Harvard. When one of them demanded to know whether there was any reason they could not be admitted with their brothers, Quincy’s answer was simple, direct, and representative of the contemporary male opinion: “Oh yes, my dear, we never allow girls at Harvard. You know the place for girls is at home.”73 This answer was unacceptable to radical proponents of female education, who had already begun to work for female collegiate education. Their early struggle faced huge odds. For example, when the LeRoy Female Seminary in New York applied to the state legislature in 1851 for a charter as a women’s college, it was turned down simply because of precedent: there were no colleges for women.74 During the 1860s the state’s regents appointed a commission to study charters for female colleges. It did so not because the regents were favorably disposed to the idea but in order to respond to those “who would demolish all distinctions, political, educational and social between the sexes, ignoring alike the providence of God and the common sense of mankind.”75 The argument was grounded in classical liberal thought: the same Creator who endowed men with inalienable rights had ordained that men and women should occupy distinctly different spheres in society. Nevertheless, substantial progress was already being made. The Georgia legislature chartered the Georgia Female College at Macon in 1836.76 Antioch and Oberlin colleges in Ohio became coeducational during the 1840s, admitting women and men of color, as well. During the fourth and fifth decades of the century, four


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 143). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

femalecolleges were opened in Ohio, three in Pennsylvania, one in Tennessee, and one in Illinois.77 Before 1870, 11 colleges in New England and New York admitted women. In New York State the following colleges were chartered to admit females: Ingham University in 1842, Genesee College in 1851, Central College in 1851, Elmira College in 1855, St. Lawrence in 1856, Alfred University in 1858, Vassar in 1861, and Rutgers FemaleCollege in 1867. In Massachusetts several institutions were similarly chartered: Boston University in 1869, Wellesley in 1875, and Smith in 1875. With the exception of Vassar and Boston University, all the institutions that began admitting women before 1870 were plagued with similar problems: insufficient endowments, inability to overcome the weight of traditional opposition to female higher education, and lack of sufficient social and educational vision.78 A major breakthrough for female collegiate education was the establishment of Vassar College at Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1861. Founded by Matthew Vassar with an endowment of half a million dollars, Vassar began with a sound financial foundation. Moreover, its founder started from the premise that women were equal to men, and he demonstrated that liberal ideology could be used to justify equal rights for women: “It occurred to me that woman, having received from her Creator the same intellectual constitution as man, has the same right as man to intellectual culture and development.”79 Thus, from the outset, Vassar intended to provide women with collegiate educations equal to those provided in the best male colleges—and it had the financial resources to do so. Heaven,” for example, at Vassar Maria Mitchell used the second largest telescope in America to teach astronomy. Vassar’s library had seven times the holdings of Elmira College and was nearly equal to the library at Columbia. Vassar’s salary budget for instructors was one of the largest in the nation, and its male instructors’ salaries compared favorably with those at Harvard and Yale. The entrance requirements and curriculum at Vassar were equal to those at the best male colleges.81 The inevitable result was that Vassar provided an education for women that was at least equal to that of the best male institutions. Indeed, in 1870, after visiting Vassar’s classes, Harvard’s president Charles Eliot remarked, “the boys at Harvard did not recite so well in German, French or Latin or even in mathematics as did the girls at Vassar.”82 Perhaps most significant was that Vassar provided an obvious counterexample to the time-honored belief in female inferiority. Women and Vocational Education The Vassar example did not produce a revolution in American attitudes toward gender and education. As described in Chapter 4, the two decades surrounding the turn of the 20th century found Americans’ attention focused on an array of other problems: major new immigration from southern and eastern Europe, urbanization, the demands of the new industrial enterprises, and the disquieting social and economic disturbances resulting from these phenomena. Not surprisingly, Americans turned to the schools to alleviate these difficulties. Educators and social commentators soon become enamored of the idea that vocational training would make schools more responsive to social and economic conditions. The demand for vocationalism became a roar that drowned out most other considerations in educational policy making. With respect to gender, most of the vocational training discussion assumed that girls should be trained for traditional women’s activities while boys should be trained for men’s occupations. Girls’ vocational training was generally confined to domestic science and commercial education. Domestic Science Training Without exception, the literature on vocational training for girls emphasized the woman’s natural role as wife and homemaker.83 A leading educator, John D. Philbrick, while In your view, what were the strengths and weaknesses of the efforts made to provide education for women at the secondary and postsecondary levels in the 18th and 19th centuries? Thinking Critically about the Issues #1 Matthew Vassar understood that quality would be expensive and was willing to charge high tuition for superior education. He argued “to court public patronage by catering to cheap or low prices of instruction is to my mind ridiculous. . . . I go for the best means, cost what they may, and corresponding prices for tuition in return. . . . I am therefore giving the daughters of the public the very best means of education and make them pay for it.”80 This attitude was reflected in Vassar’s program. While other female colleges often taught “geography of


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 144). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

analyzing city school systems for the U.S. Commissioner of Education in 1885, set the tone for the era when he stated that “no girl can be considered properly educated who cannot sew.”84 The chairperson of the woman’s branch of the Farmer’s Institute of North Carolina, W. N. Hutt, put it more bluntly when she informed the 1910 National Education Association convention that regardless of what other vocation a woman might temporarily adopt, “She will, with it all, wake up some fine morning and find herself in some man’s kitchen, and woe be unto her if she has not the knowledge with which to cook his breakfast.”85 A year earlier, in New York City, the city schools’ director of cooking, Mary E. Williams, emphatically delineated women’s “natural vocation.” She argued that every girl should study domestic science because once a woman heard the “God-given call of her mate,” she would desert all other vocations to assume the “position of the highest responsibility and the holiest duties of human life, those of homemaking and motherhood; upon which the progress of civilization and of human society depend.”86 There was an ethnic and class bias in the campaign for domestic science. In the North these programs were specifically aimed at the daughters of immigrants and the working class, and in the South, at African American s. Middle-class educators were convinced that these children came from homes that could offer no lessons on adequate diet, food preparation, home management, or family life. If they were properly trained in the school’s domestic science classes, educators thought that girls would regenerate working-class homes and provide “stability” for industrial workers. New York City’s superintendent of schools argued in 1910 that homemaking courses “have been a factor during the past years in helping to solve the economic questions of the nation.”87 Describing the impact of domestic science courses in Chicago’s schools, the principal of Spry School said, “The evening meal of the factory hand may be made more tempting than the lunch counter, and the clothing of the family, as well as the arrangement and tidiness of the living room at home may be as attractive as the gilded home of vice. Domestic science may become the unsuspected, and yet not the least efficient, enemy of the saloon.”88 Indeed, Chicago led the rush to implement domestic science training for girls in the middle grades. Almost three-fourths of Chicago’s seventh- and eighth-grade girls were enrolled in household arts courses in 1900.89 Ten years later, approximately half of New York City’s girls in the seventh and eighth grades were in similar programs, and the superintendent announced that all high school girls would be required to receive domestic instruction.90 By 1928, 30 percent of all female high school students in the United States were enrolled in domestic science courses.


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Domestic science programs aimed at more than merely teaching girls to cook, sew, and order a household. They were sophisticated efforts at shaping reality for students. The method can be seen in the National Education Association’s 1910 “Report of the Subcommittee on the Industrial and Technical Education in the Secondary Schools.” In the section devoted to industrial training for girls, the report described programs at Boston’s Girls’ High School of Practical Arts and at Cleveland’s Technical High School. The principal of the Boston school noted that a major aspect of the girls’ mathematics course involved solutions to simple problems such as the maintenance of household accounts. He continued, “Our academic work, as well as the drawing, correlates with the shop. Descriptions of various processes, with materials in hand, are required as lessons


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 146). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

in good English. The chemistry deals with questions of food, clothing, and shelter. The aim of these courses is to set before the girl the highest ideals of home life; to train her in all that pertains to practical housekeeping.” The description of the industrial training department in Cleveland’s Technical High School reveals a similar orientation. Domestic science topics were assigned in English classes, chemistry revolved around food preparation, and mathematics was devoted to adding household accounts and dividing cooking recipes. “In short, all technical subjects involving homemaking are taken as the basis of the course for girls, and the rest of the studies are grouped around these.”91 In 1910 the National Education Association held that one important aim of girls’ vocational education was to “train work in distinctly feminine occupations.”92 In 1906 the Massachusetts Commission on Industrial and Technical Training recommended that if a woman was obliged to work (outside the home), vocational education should “fit her so that she can and will enter those industries which are most closely allied to the home.”93 Secretarial practice, bookkeeping, and general office work were often seen as the office equivalent of the wife. Women in these positions were expected to do the routine and “housekeeping” chores of the office. Commercial Education As industry and business became increasingly bureaucratized and Taylorized at the turn of the century, the amount of paperwork greatly increased as instructions and reports were sent along the growing chain of managerial command. An efficient, technically trained, and cheap clerical workforce was required to process, send, store, and retrieve this mountain of paper. Women fitting this description were available in significant numbers, and so clerical work would quickly shift from a male occupation to be considered women’s work. Public secondary schools quickly stepped forward to satisfy the desires of industry. As historian John Rury reports, “Commercial education was among the fastest growing areas of study in high schools across the country in this period. . . . Commercial education became an important aspect of female high school education in the opening decades of the twentieth century, and represents one of the earliest examples of the manner in which women’s education responded to changes in the labor market.”94 The fact that clerical work was designed to mirror the supposed female qualities was reflected in business educators’ assessment of the appropriate kind of training needed by their students. Again Rury is instructive: [Business educators commented] repeatedly on the different career patterns men and women followed in business, and some argued that distinctive male and female curricula ought to be established to accommodate such differences. A survey of sixty-six high school principals in 1917 found that nearly two-thirds believed that businessmen wanted training for men and women to differ. Boys, it was felt, required preparation for careers in administration and management, while women needed training for relatively short-term employment as secretaries and typists. Consequently, men ought to be given a broader education commensurate with the responsibilities they were expected to assume, while the technical details of office procedure were considered sufficient for women, whose working careers were generally short. Surveys of the occupational status of men and women in business confirmed the accuracy of these expectations. One of the best known such surveys found in Cleveland that “regardless of the position in which boys and girls started in life, boys worked into administrative positions,” while women remained secretaries or clerks until they left the office to get married.95 Rury points out that although few commercial education programs were actually sex-segregated, the commercial courses generally became women’s education because “women were entering these courses more rapidly than their male counterparts.” Commercial education was largely female because the labor market sought women for low-paying clerical positions.96 Most of the evidence suggests that like domestic scienc e, commercial education was not only sexsegregated but class-biased. It was primarily a curriculum for women and especially for the daughters of less affluent families. Timothy Crimmins’s study of Atlanta’s Girls’ High School is an excellent case in point. Girls’ High School was opened in 1872. Its composition reflected both the caste system and the class system in contemporary Atlanta. African Americans were excluded; 29.9 percent of the students were from the upper class, and 61.3 percent were from middle-class families. None were from the lowest-class families.97 Given this social class composition, what curriculum might we expect to find—classical or vocational? The curriculum included Latin, French, mathematics, physical science, composition, English literature, and philosophy.98 By 1896 enrollment had doubled, the percentage from upper-class families had declined, and the percentage from the lower-middle and lower classes had increased substantially. The student body


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 147). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

still had no girls from the lowest-class White families.99 As the social composition of the school changed, however, so did its curriculum. In 1889 a commercial curriculum was added that allowed girls to “substitute typing, bookkeeping, and stenography for Latin, algebra, and philosophy.” This curriculum “led directly to employment as secretaries, stenographers, and typists in the city’s burgeoning bureaucracies.”100 The social class composition of the two curricula is enlightening: all the upper-class students and 224 of the 297 middle-class students were in the literary curriculum. All the girls in the commercial curriculum came from middle- and lower-class families.101 vocational solution to the problem of what schools should do for girls. During this period (as we saw in Chapter 3 as well), the teaching profession came to be seen as an extension of the domestic role and thus an appropriate occupation for women. The Primary Source Readings for this chapter demonstrate that individuals don’t need to allow the dominant ideology to completely define their own thinking, although one’s thinking is inevitably influenced by one’s cultural circumstances. The 1848 Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions clearly opposes the subordination of women in society, and over 60 years later Mary Leal Harkness opposed girls’ vocational education in schools. Today, it might easily appear that the dominant ideology has finally accepted women as the legal, social, and political equals of men, in which case there would be no need for teachers to question that ideology. Yet, as we will see in Part 2 of this volume, social and economic inequalities based on gender still exist in American culture. Anyone who works with children and youth can see that the influences on young women— from advertising and the media more generally, for example —are very different than they are on young men. And, as we will see in Part 2, even the best-intentioned teachers may find themselves unwittingly reinforcing gender stereotypes in the classroom. It is still easy today for girls to lack confidence in the classroom in certain subjects if they believe that “boys are better” in that area, or if they are less assertive than boys by nature or by socialization or both. Only recently have the laws been put in place to make the same curricular and extracurricular opportunities available for both boys and girls in schools, and they are still needing enforcement. Resentment can still persist in some schools and universities when a male athletic program, for example, is curtailed to make room for a girls’ or women’s program to balance athletic opportunities. So the question arises: Does any of this have implications for how teachers think about their own practices with both boys and girls? Should anything in your philosophy of education make those implications explicit, or is this one of those things that “goes without saying”? Evaluate whether the following is a valid reading of Chapter 5: The history of education for girls and women in this country was little more than an attempt to further subordinate women to men. Thinking Critically about the Issues #2 BUILDING A PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION Chapter 5 illustrates how major social changes from Jefferson’s time to the progressive era, accompanied by tensions in the dominant ideology from classical liberalism to modern liberalism, led to shifts in the nature and purposes of women’s education, while the underlying assumptions about women’s subordinate place in society were not radically altered. Some might argue that gaining the vote at the end of this period was indeed a radical improvement for the role of women in society, yet women remained second class in many other ways. The ideological tension portrayed in this chapter is that women were increasingly entitled to education, but they were still not to be regarded as equal to men. The resulting developments in schooling were on the one hand the increasing enrollment of girls in public schools and on the other hand the strengthening of the belief that women are naturally destined for domestic roles—and that schools should therefore prepare girls for those adult roles. Given the narrow range of employment options for women, the classical liberal era “cult of domesticity” would give way to the progressive period’s “domestic sciences” curriculum, a new


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Primary Source Reading Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, both of whom were deeply influenced by the antislavery movement, organized the Seneca Falls conference in July 1848 to bring men and women together to consider the subordinate role of women in the United States. The two organizers, together with others, drew up this declaration, using the Declaration of Independence as a model. At the conference, attended by some 300 persons and chaired by Lucretia Mott’s husband, James, 11 resolutions were passed unanimously, and the 12th was narrowly passed after a stirring speech from the floor by Frederick Douglass. The language of Jeffersonian liberalism would come to be used by women and African Americans to extend the meaning of equality before the law for the next 150 years, right up to our own time. The Declaration is presented here so students may see the political–economic conditions that were foremost in the minds of women’s rights advocates in mid-19th century; consider the ideological tensions in classical liberalism, the ideology that justified the oppressions of women and yet provided the conceptual underpinning of this Declaration; and finally, examine the various educational issues implicit in these sentiments and resolutions. Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinion of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men—both natives and foreigners. Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides. He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns. He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master—the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement. He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes, and in case of separation,


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to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women—the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands. After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single, and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it. He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known. He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her. He allows her in Church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church. He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man. He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and to her God. He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life. Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation—in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States. In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and National legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions embracing every part of the country. Resolutions WHEREAS, The great perception of nature is conceded to be, that “man shall pursue his own true and sub stantial happiness.” Blackstone in his Commentaries remark s, that this law of Nature being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid, derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original; therefore, Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature and of no validity, for this is “superior in obligation to any other.” Resolved, That all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature, and therefore of no force or authority. Resolved, That woman is man’s equal—was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such. Resolved, That the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want. Resolved, That inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is preeminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies. Resolved, That the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state, should also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman. Resolved, That the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very illgrace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus.


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Resolved, That woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her. Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise. Resolved, That the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities. Resolved, therefore, That, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities, and the same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a selfevident falsehood, and at war with mankind. [At the last session Lucretia Mott offered and spoke to the following resolution:] Resolved, That the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce. Primary Source Reading This article was written by journalist Mary Leal Harkness for a popular, well-educated audience in 1914. It illustrates a number of the issues raised in this chapter: a criticism of the prevailing view that a woman’s place is in the home or in a limited number of “female” roles outside the home, the role of schooling in supporting these limited life options for women, the various ideological justifications for the subordinate place of women in society, and so on. Harkness’s piece cannot be dismissed simply as just another tirade against the subordinate roles of women. She is thoughtful about the value of those creative dimensions of gendered domestic experience, such as cooking or sewing, that she finds rewarding. However, she strongly criticizes relegating any such experience to boys or girls alone. Moreover, she calls into question the entire progressive notion of using schools for vocational preparation, whether for girls or for boys, as a “wasting of children’s time.” The Education of the Girl Mary Leal Harkness I do not know why an utterance on that subject in yesterday morning’s paper stirred me up more than similar ones which I am constantly seeing in print. Perhaps it was because the utterer was advertised as an “authority” on “vocational education,” for his words did not differ essentially from the current platitude. “The problem of girls education is simple,” he said in effect, “since what you have to do is merely to train them to be home-keeper s; to teach them the details of the management of the house and the care of children, and not to despise domestic duties.” . . . But why, I beg to ask, does everyone know that the vocation which is sure to delight every girl and in which she is sure to succeed (always provided, of course, that she is given the proper “practical” training in her school-days) is housekeeping and the rearing of children, when even the cocksure vocationalist has to admit that he cannot always foretell with absolute certainty whether a boy of fourteen was made to be a carpenter or an engineer, a farmer or a Methodist preacher? In our outward configuration of form and feature we women confessedly differ as greatly from one another as do men. Why this assumption that in the inward configuration of character, taste, and talent we are all made upon one pattern? I must say that the perpetual declaration on the “woman’s page” of modern periodicals that “every woman should know how to cook a meal, and make her own clothes, and feed a baby” fills me with scorn unutterable. But then for that matter the mere fact of a “woman’s page” fills me with scorn. Why not a “man’s page,” with a miscellany of twaddle, labeled as exclusively, adapted to the masculine intellect? The idea that literature is properly created male and female is no less absurd than the idea that there is one education of the man and another of the woman. And it is no more essential to the progress of the universe that every woman should be taught to cook than that every man should be taught to milk a cow.


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I do not propose to enter into any discussion of the possible mental superiority of either sex over the other (although I cannot resist quoting in an “aside” the recent remark to me of a teacher of distinguished judgment and long experience: “the fact is, girls are much better students than boys”), but only to maintain this: that girls show as much diversity of taste in intellectual work as boys, that their aptitude for work purely intellectual is as great, and that, therefore, whatever variation is made in the present plan of their education, it should not be based upon the narrow foundation of preconceived ideas of differences inherent in sex. I do not believe that anything necessarily “becomes a woman” more than a man, except as our superstition has made it seem to do so. Yet, as a matter of fact, superstition begins to hamper a girl’s education almost at the very beginning, and one of the first forms which it takes is “consideration for her health.” Consideration for the health of a child of either sex is more than laudable, if it be intelligently exercised; but I really cannot see why our daughters deserve more of such consideration than our sons. And the typical consideration for the health of the little girl and the young maiden is not infused with a striking degree of intelligence, as is evidenced by the very small amount of intelligence with which we invariably credit the girl herself. For absolutely the only kind of activity which we ever conceive to be injurious to her is mental activity. One might perhaps agree to the reiterated parental excuse for half-educated daughters that “nothing can compensate a girl for the loss of her health,” if parents would explain how they think that anything can compensate a boy for the loss of his. But they take that risk quite blithely, and send him to college. Personally I have never seen any evidence that the risk for either sex is more than a phantom, and I believe that it is yet to be proved that the study of books has ever in itself been responsible for the breaking down in health of any human being. Many foolish things done in connection with the study of books have contributed to the occasional failure in health of students, but there is, I firmly believe, no reason but prejudiced superstition for the unanimity with which the fond mamma and the family physician fix the cause of the break-down in the books, and never in the numerous and usually obvious other activities. And in the spasms of commiseration for the unfortunates whose “health has been ruined by hard study” nobody has taken the trouble to notice the by-no-means infrequent cases of young persons, and girls especially, of really delicate health, who have stuck to their studies, but with a reasonable determination not to try to stick to ten or a dozen other side issues at the same time, and have come out of college, not physical wrecks, but stronger than when they went in. And who shall say with what greater capacity for enjoying life than those who have devoted the principal energy of their adolescence to the conservation of their health—frequently with no marked success? So far as the normal child is concerned, his—and her—brain is naturally as active as his body, and it is not “crowding,” nor yet “overstimulation,” to give that active and acquisitive brain material worth while to work with. Therefore, the pathetic picture which has been painted recently in certain periodicals of the lean and nervous little overworked school-girl may be classed, I think, among the works of creative art rather than among photographs taken from life. Such pictures, as Art, may rank very high, but do not deserve great commendation as a contribution to the science of education. I am not saying that there are not many abominations practiced in our schools, especially of primary and secondary grade; but they are not in the direction of overeducation. The thing against which I pray to see a mighty popular protest is the wasting of children’s time, and the dissipation of all their innate powers of concentration, through the great number of studies of minor (not to use a less complimentary adjective) educational value, which is now one of the serious evils in our schools. And I think that this evil is bearing rather more heavily upon the girls than upon the boys. . . . But my objection to the whole movement to “redirect” the education of girls is not that many very good things are not put into the redirected curriculum, but that its whole direction is wrong. I cannot say that it is not a good thing for some women to know how to cook and sew well, for it is indeed both good and necessary to civilized life. I cannot say that some of the subjects introduced into a good domestic-science course are not educative and truly scientific, because I should be saying what is not true. But I do believe that the idea at the basis of it all is fundamentally false. For the idea is this: that one-half of the human race should be “educated” for one single occupation, while the multitudinous other occupations of civilized life should all be loaded upon the other half. The absurd inequality of the division should alone be enough to condemn it. The wonder is that the men do not complain of being overloaded with so disproportionate a share of the burden. I dare say it is their chivalry which makes them bear it so bravely.


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 152). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

This statement of the division is not inconsistent with my complaint that women try to do too many things. They do, but they are all things which are supposed to be included in some way or other within their “proper sphere,” the maintenance of the home. Sometimes I grow so weary of The Home that if I did not love my own I could really wish that there were no such thing upon this terrestrial ball. I do love my own home, but I protest that the primary reason is not because my mother is a good cook, although she is, notably. Even as I write these words I thrill with the thought of my near return to her strawberry shortcakes. But I know other homes where there is also strawberry shortcake of a high order, in which I yet think that even filial devotion would have a hard task to make me feel much contentment. I might say the same of the various things that make my home attractive to look upon. Yet the course of study which would graduate “home-makers” is based upon the principle that “home” consists primarily of these things. I am aware that its makers would include certain studies supposed to contribute to “culture,” but even where these are well taught, they are still, in my opinion, rendered largely ineffectual by the false motive for study inculcated from the beginning, which makes them all, for women, only side-issues. I cannot see that girls were created essentially to be “home-keepers” any more than boys. Men and women, so far as they choose to marry, are to make a home together, and any system of education which so plans the division of labor between them that the woman shall “make” and stay in a place for which the man pays and to which he returns once in twenty-four hours, is wrong for at least two good reasons. It trains to two such different conceptions of responsibility that true companionship and community of interest is diminished, and often almost destroyed; and it so magnifies a specialized manual training for the woman that it places her at the end in the artisan class, and not in the educated. If a woman so trained knows how to care for the minds of her children as well as she knows how to feed and dress and physic and spank them, she owes it to the grace of Heaven and not to her “vocational” education “for motherhood.” But I do not believe that girls should be “educated to be mothers” at all, in the absurdly narrow sense in which such education is now conceived. Every form of special instruction as a preparation for parenthood that can be necessary for a girl is necessary for a boy also. For what does it profit a woman or her offspring to have kept herself strong and clean, to have learned the laws of sex-hygiene and reproduction, or of care of the child, if the father of the child has failed to do the same? But I cannot see how the world can have gone so mad as it has over the idea that the birth of the child, and its few subsequent months of existence, constitute the epochal point, the climax, as it were, in the life of any married pair. Surely, it is a very narrow view of life which fails to see how much is to be done in the world besides rearing children. It is true that society does perhaps in a way recognize this, but it seems to wish all active doing relegated to the men, while the woman’s contribution is confined to “influence” exerted while nursing a numerous progeny through the diseases of infancy in a happy and perfectly sanitary home. It is time for a more general recognition that such “feminine influence,” like honesty, laudatur et alget. The average woman only influences her husband or children to anything good through her brains and character, and the degree of power to express either brains or character depends mainly upon education. It sounds well to proclaim the mothering of the world as woman’s greatest profession, her truest glory; but it would be well also to consider that such “mothering” as is mostly done—and will be, so long as women are taught to prepare only for its physical demands, its purely material services—is never going to be either great or glorious. An education which can give the greatest intellectual strength, the completest mental sanity, and so the broadest outlook upon life, is the need and the right of girls and boys alike. But surely it cannot be said that their need is met alike unless the likeness in their education extends also to the ideal of the use that is to be made of it after school-days are past. If the colleges in which women are taught have failed at all in accomplishing their full possibility, it has been in the comparatively small degree to which they have succeeded in removing even from the minds of the young women themselves the hoary idea that, after all, the principal thing to be expected of the higher education of women is still the diffusion of an exceptionally exalted type of the aforementioned “influence.” It does seem rather a small return for years of collegiate effort that the best that can be said of them is that a woman’s mental attainments have proved a great assistance to her husband’s career as a Cabinet officer. I cannot think that we shall have what wholly deserves to be called an educated womanhood until we have dissipated the idea, still so prevalent even among women themselves, that a woman needs to have a definite occupation only until she marries, or if she fails to marry.


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 153). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

That “a woman must choose between marriage and a career” is the most detestable of all the woman platitudes in the entire collection, because, while most of these platitudes are merely stupid, this one is wholly vicious. It has been so incessantly reiterated, to the accompaniment of much shallow sentimentalizing on the sacredness of home and mother, that the public has never been allowed a quiet moment to reflect on its injustice, and to realize how possible, and therefore imperative, is its removal along with other ancient injustices. As I have urged in a previous article, the recently born and phenomenally growing department of education which styles itself variously Domestic Science, Household Economy, and I believe one or two other impressive things, might be the pioneer in this great work of justice, if it would. So far as that educational movement adds to woman’s ability to become a good citizen by leading her to an intelligent interest in the civic problems of housing, feeding, teaching, and amusing not alone her immediate family group, but a whole community, it does more in the right direction. But the very women who are themselves making a successful profession of teaching this group of subjects (thanks mainly to their having received the sort of education they now deprecate for women in general) apparently claim for them no greater mission for the average young woman than ability to guard her husband from ptomaine poison in his ice-cream, or to make gowns and shirt-waists well enough so that she can earn a living, “if she ever has to work.” Shall we never cease to hear that contemptible reason for a girl’s education? An age in which women have proved themselves possessors of intellects might naturally be expected to recognize as a province of their education the ability to discover some particular intellectual bent whose training and development for life-long use are not contingent upon matrimony and the financial condition of two men—their fathers and their husbands respectively. It is held rather reprehensible to say it, but I do not see why every girl has not as good a right as every boy to dream of fame, and to be put in the way of reaching fame. If ninety-nine percent of the girls fail of even the smallest title to fame, just as ninety-nine percent of the boys do, yet the level of their lives must inevitably be raised by the education and the educational ideals which we should provide for them all for the sake of the hundredth girl. The supreme ideal which I hope that our schools may some day inspire is that every girl should discover something, whether of fame-bringing probabilities or not, which will seem to be worthy of being a life-work. In nearly every present plan for the education of girls there lurks the same fatal weakness; girls are not made to realize as boys are that they are being educated for a business which must last as long as life lasts; that they are to feel an interest in it and grow in it,—to develop it, if possible; they are not taught that a definite purposeful share in the outside world’s work is a privilege not a misfortune. My own theory is that the only way in which such a state of feminine mind can be made general is by broadening woman’s education on the purely intellectual side; but of course I am open to conviction that the result can be better attained by “scientific” breadmaking ,—even to the exclusion of Latin and Greek.


Tozer, Steven; Senese, Guy; Violas, Paul (2012-10-10). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Page 154). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

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