|The Push towards Collegiate Coeducation:
National Collegiate Coeducation Development and the Distinct Southern Resistance— 1830 through the Progressive Era
The push for women’s integration into colleges and universities from 1830 to 1920 was a fluctuating struggle that claimed influences as diverse as World Wars to infertility hypotheses. After the Civil War, collegiate coeducation came reasonably quickly to the North, Midwest and West, but the South remained immune to many national influences and lagged significantly behind. The purpose of this paper is threefold: 1) to explore college coeducation development nationwide 2) to identify why college coeducation was slower to be adopted in the South than anywhere else in the country and 3) what this legacy of stalled advancement translated into for women who attended public and private Southern colleges and universities. For the purposes of this paper, the South encompasses the “Old South” (all Southeastern states), Arkansas, and Texas. The following account is not only a history of coeducation adoption in the country, but also a history of women’s collegiate education in the South and how men and women interacted in this region.
Influences on Coeducation Adoption in the U.S.
An exploration of the pace and path of gender desegregation in higher education cannot begin without Oberlin College’s story. Founded on September 6, 1833, Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Oberlin, Ohio became the first college in the United States to grant degrees to both men and women. Later renamed Oberlin College, the institute’s mission was to train teachers and preachers to fan the flames of the Second Great Awakening in what was then the American West. Oberlin became a model for coeducation, and, after a decision in 1835 to accept students of color, an avid proponent of racial egalitarianism. The first African-American woman granted a college degree in the U.S. graduated from Oberlin in 1862.1
Oberlin College’s progressive stance on women and race established it as an anomaly amongst higher education institutions. Its integration successes reinforced coeducation advocates’ hope that mixed-gender education at the college level could be implemented throughout the country relatively quickly. Their jubilation proved short-lived. The time the advocates envisioned for coeducation adoption proved to be much longer than any could have hoped. Another 40 years passed before a quarter of existing colleges became coed.2 But by the turn of the century, almost three quarters of all existing colleges had initiated mixed-gender education.3 Even once schools did adopt coeducation, institutional access did not guarantee campus equality or a positive educational experience. Women at prestigious schools such as Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Duke, and Wesleyan experienced discrimination in classes, curricula geared toward male interests, unequal separatism in activities, and open hostility from male students and faculty. There were, of course, exceptions. The institutional goals put forth by Oberlin College and the University of Iowa fostered the most progressive social reform and congenial campus atmospheres for women nationwide.4 Good paragraph
The history of women and coeducation in higher learning is a fluctuating, complicated subject that does not flow forward in a succinct, smooth progression. For instance, Wesleyan University in Connecticut opened as an all-male institution in 1870, turned coed in 1892, became all male again in 1905, and then became coeducational permanently in 1970.5 The University of Chicago, originally considered a pioneer in coeducation and lauded for its egalitarian efforts, segregated its classes into “male” and “female” in 1902.6 Numerous colleges and universities classified as coeducational admitted just handfuls of women students for decades. The history of women in higher education is rather piecemeal and is best considered when viewed institution by institution, as progression, especially in the private realm, depended largely upon ideology of the school’s charter, the individuals in charge, and the local community. “Each community responded idiosyncratically to the controversies over coeducation,”7 Historian Barbara Solomon asserts. The fact that the history of women at coeducational institutions – the type of institution that 95 percent of female college students graduate from today – has only started to be thoroughly researched further complicates this history. As Historian Rosalind Rosenberg explains:
Scholars have written extensively about the history of higher education, but they have directed little attention to the impact of its predominant form [coeducation] on women's lives. Only in the past decade have historians begun to mine the archives of the colleges and universities and to describe women's experience in a number of different institutions.8
Even though women’s higher education history is institute-dependant, fluctuating, and in its nascent stages, five major factors that are not institution-based have emerged that affected coeducation adoption rates on a global level. These five external factors are: federal acts, the common-school movement, the Civil and World Wars, the women’s movements (and opposition), and regional socio-economic differences. I like the above discussion. It can be hard to convey to a reader that a topic is convoluted and sketchy. You do it nicely.
While coeducation did not come as a sweeping wave across the country, outside forces did partly influence the rate of its adoption. The most influential coeducation accelerators in the nineteenth century were the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. These acts provided land-grants to state colleges and universities in exchange for a mandated agricultural and mechanical arts curriculum. The Morrill Acts spurred a new interest in public higher education as several states eagerly capitalized on the federal land giveaway, and public colleges and universities sprouted up across the country. Prior to the Morrill Acts, a classical college education had been regarded as a “frill” of the elite and upper classes because they were the only people who could afford to pay for private college schooling. 9 The acts changed the mission of the higher educative enterprise because they stressed industrial classes as their “leading objective” over classical classes and democratized education by making it affordable to a greater number of students. Right According to the prescribed roles of women of the day, females did not belong in agriculture and mechanical arts classes. Thus state legislatures justified using federal money to open land-grant universities to males only. An occasional inferiorly funded sister institute appeared as well. The era of public college founding had begun.
While the Morrill Acts originally appeared to ignore women because of their industrial emphasis they actually spurred coeducation based on economic and practical reasons. True These relatively young male land-grant universities were often chronically cash-strapped and forced to find new avenues of income. Fueled by the pragmatic need for funds augmented with arguments regarding equal opportunity for state taxpayers’ sons and daughters, many land-grant colleges opened admissions to women. In other instances, financially faltering male colleges and their sister counterparts consolidated. Finally, many land-grant institutions included coeducation as part of their land-grant charter to avoid financing two separate same-sex institutions. The Morrill Acts, although they made no mention of women’s education, unintentionally accelerated the coeducation process exponentially. Prior to the 1862 Morrill Act, there were scores of coeducational small liberal arts colleges and 3 public universities in the Midwest.10 Between 1862 and 1900, over 70 large, public coeducational land-grant universities had developed across the country. These schools ignited a trend in college coeducation practices in the North and Midwest.11 Good
The demands of the teacher labor market also created an economic inroad for women into traditionally male higher education institutes. Right The development of a public, common school system for the masses created a tremendous need for teachers. By the 1860s, the common-school reform movement had reached fruition in the North and Midwest.12 Teaching had originally been a primarily male profession. This major overhaul and expansion of the lower level school system created a demand for male teachers that significantly outpaced supply. Even more, poor communities found it difficult to pay male teachers if they were fortunate enough to secure one. Women were tapped to fill the teacher role, albeit for considerably cheaper pay. Activists and communities urged legislatures to adequately train these new, less expensive female teachers. As a result, coeducational academies and seminaries developed, and a few male universities opened up their normal school programs to include women students.13 The University of Wisconsin first admitted women through their normal school in 1862, and the University of Missouri followed suit in1867.14 By the 1870’s, the teaching profession at the lower levels was almost completely feminized. This feminization of teaching necessitated university teaching programs and academies to accept women.
Similar to the Morrill Acts, World War I and II influenced coeducation adoption rates based on economic and practical needs. By World War I, the climate for higher education of both sexes had significantly changed. The number of colleges had doubled and percentage of citizens enrolled in college had quadrupled and since 1870. Women now comprised 40 percent of all college students. Coeducation was no longer an anomaly and over 58 percent of colleges accepted male and female students. With enrollment numbers significantly down as young men joined the war effort – leaving financially troubled male schools in a bind – women filled seats left vacant by soldiers. William and Mary College and University of Tennessee opened admissions to women during World War I. The second Second World War produced the same financial drain and soldier vacancies. Northeastern, Drew and Wake Forest universities opened admissions during World War II. 15
Beyond financial incentive, colleges were more likely to admit women during World War I and II than the Civil War in part because of social climate created by the women’s rights movement. Right Women’s rights and suffragists movements played a significant factor in influencing coeducation adoption nationwide. The first National Women’s Rights Convention (1848) made the call to improve higher education for women, and most conventions revisited this theme thereafter. These advocates did not buy into the “separate but equal” ideology and viewed educating men and women together as the best way to ensure an equal, quality education. In some instances, advocates, both male and female, shepherded in mixed-gender education at institutions through hard-fought campaigns. Women’s rights advocates such as Horace Greeley, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Maria Mitchell campaigned for Cornell to change their same sex policy and won in 1872.16 Women’s advocates targeted state funded schools in their coeducation campaigns. “Women’s demands for admission to schools receiving state funds eventually turned the tide of one public (male) institution after another,” states Historian Barbara Solomon.17 In other instances, women’s rights movement activities and rhetoric paved the way for reform rather than forcing a direct change in a school’s policy. When institutions fell on hard times due to falling enrollment as potential applicants joined the first and second World Wars, admitting women sounded like a more acceptable solution that it did in the 1860s. Thanks to feminists like Lucy Stone, the first female Oberlin graduate, and Jane Addams, views that teaching men and women together at college would endanger women’s fertility and psychiatric health had become outdated by World War I. Ultimately, moral rhetoric when combined with financial motivations provided the greater impetus towards equal mixed-gender education until the women’s suffrage act of 1920. good point
In contrast, a different movement’s rhetoric played into the push and pull of educational reform during this time period. Conservatives of the 1870s ushered in a sexist, “medically” based round of influential attacks that delayed coeducation adoption rates. Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Edward Clarke led this new round of attacks. Clarke published “Sex in Education”, his book opposing coeducation, in 1873. The vastly popular book asserted that coeducation at the college level was harmful to women’s health, especially their reproductive organs. Clarke therefore offered that “coeducation is a sin against man.” Likeminded opponents declared women intellectually inferior and higher education as socially undesirable to women because it would render them “manly” and unmarriageable.18 Other coeducation adversaries emphasized that women were stepping out of the appropriate “women’s sphere” of housework and motherhood duties by attending collegiate institutes. A prestigious college education was for the future male leaders of the country, not for the future wives and mothers. Clarke and his cohorts were not alone, and many people around the country voiced the same concerns. Right; they were worried because it was elite and middle-class white women trying to attend colleges. They worried that those pillars of true womanhood would be tainted by too much schooling and be educated away from their natural and God-given place in society and the home.
Clark and like-minded adversaries were waging a losing battle against coeducation in the 1870s. Between 1870 and 1880, the number of colleges founded soared and so too did the percentage of women seeking a college education. Women’s enrollment figures doubled, and the majority of women attended coed institutes. By 1900, the number of women enrolled in college increased four-fold.19 Huge increase This increase was more rapid than males, and at some coed institutions women began to outnumber men.20 Worse, female students received more honors than males at institutes such as the University of Chicago and Stanford University. Administrators and educators feared that if this trend continued, coed schools would be taken over by women. The fear of feminization of colleges spread across the nation at the century’s end, and schools reevaluated their coeducation policy.21 This backlash resulted in some institutions ending coeducation, limiting women’s enrollment, altering curricula to be male-orientated, or separating women into special divisions or academic programs. Stanford University limited female enrollment at 500 and stipulated that only one female could be admitted for every three males.22 University of Chicago separated classes into “male” and “female”. Wesleyan abandoned coeducation altogether. I like the way you’ve set up the push and pull of co-education’s progress
By 1910, the feminization backlash subsided and coeducation initiatives moved forward. Why? The University of Chicago, for instance, had recommenced mixed-gender classes. During this time period, the women’s suffrage movement combined with World War I job opportunities changed the conceptions of womanhood.—I suspect this is the answer This changing conception influenced women’s higher educative beliefs. Women were called into the professions to support the war effort. The women’s suffrage movement calls for equality intensified. The question of whether an employed woman was stepping out of her domestic sphere became less important in the face of an overwhelming need for labor –including labor in medical and other professional fields. This new work experience and new conception of womanhood ushered in new life expectations and a reconsideration of the status of women. Women, in turn, sought out higher education in much greater numbers. Between 1910 and 1920, the percentage of women entering college increased the greatest amount it had in four decades. Women’s enrollment rose 200 percent, and the majority attended coeducational institutions.23
As a result of women’s participation in the war effort combined with the persistence of the suffrage movement, women gained the right to vote in 1920. But rather than ushering a new era of greater representation on campus, the momentum of the women’s movement ebbed with their win. The majority of college campuses had already turned to joint education by 1920. The very success of women at these institutes, and the numbers at which they enrolled, produced yet another backlash. After 1920, as college enrollments expanded, women's share of the student population began to shrink. Women comprised 47 percent of college students in 1920, but their percentages dropped for the next five decades.24 (though there were more of them than men in some institutions during the World Wars)
Regional differences provided the final significant influence of coeducational trends in mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century America. Reform measures and trends did not equally distribute across the country. Regions did not act as monolithic blocks, but general patterns can be applied geographically. In the East, men's colleges like Harvard, Yale and Princeton were steeped in tradition, firmly established, handsomely endowed, and not eager to jeopardize their status by admitting women. Boston University, established in 1873, became the first public coeducation university in the North. Cornell emerged as the first private coed college with its acceptance of women in 1872.25 In the Midwest and West, where traditions were not as deeply entrenched, public education pronounced, and financial burdens of fledgling land-grant universities acute, coeducation flourished. Ohio’s Oberlin College surfaced as the first mixed-gender college in the country, accepting both sexes in 1837.26 University of Iowa (1855) was the first public university in the country to admit men and women on an equal basis. Historian Sandra Myers remarks on the region: “because the trans-Mississippi states were relatively new…they had no deeply entrenched tradition of restriction, and it was easier to convince Western legislators to pass women’s right legislation.”27 With this enlightened stance, coeducation adoption came the most easily to this area. Out of all the regions, coeducation adoption moved in the most block-like pattern in the South. Community idiosyncrasy found in other parts of the country was not nearly as prevalent. The South also did house financially impoverished institutions like the Midwest, but deeply entrenched traditions combined with a stratified socio-economic structure strongly influenced the region’s acceptance of joint education of the sexes. As a consequence, sexual segregation persisted far longer in both public and private institutions than anywhere else in the country.
Part 2: Southern Tradition and the Opposition to Coeducation
By the year 1910, 628 collegiate institutions admitted both male and female students. Only 12 of these institutions were located in the South.28 Women were provided with a college education at female colleges in the region, but as historian Monroe Lee Billington claims, “many of these did not warrant being called institutions of higher learning.”29 Before exploring the pedagogical ideology and women’s experience at Southern coed universities, the reason only 12 existed in the early twentieth century South needs to be examined. right To understand why the South was so slow to adopt coeducation is to understand the nature of the South from a social, political, demographic and economic standpoint. A combination of these factors explains the South’s sluggish public education system and obstinate adherence to traditional gender roles that created a distinct Southern resistance to collegiate coeducation. The following account is not only a history of women’s collegiate education in the South, but also a history of how men and women interacted in this region.
One of the origins of the South’s legacy of stalled advancement in higher education predates the Civil War. In contrast to their Northern counterparts, Southerners failed to construct a common school system in the decades leading up to 1861. The South’s large, conservative, influential elite, who controlled a disproportionate amount of power in state legislatures, believed that education for the masses was a luxury rather than a necessity - a belief that had been abandoned by a majority in the North. Right; men were barely educated so who cared about women Southern elites felt that a child’s education was the financial responsibility of the family, not the state. Coupled with poor rural farmers’ resistance to increased land taxation for the purposes of education, the South failed to erect a common school system until well after the war. The lack of a common-school system illuminated the fact that education of the general male populace was not a priority, never mind the education of females.
The Southern states finally accepted education as a responsibility of the state by the late 1860s and early 1870s. However, due to the consequences of the war and a one-crop economy, Southern states did not have much money to finance a strong common school system. The taxable wealth of all Southern states combined equaled New York State’s taxable wealth alone.30 Facilities were sub par, and textbooks, supplies and qualified teachers were lacking in many locations. Unfortunately, most southern schools did not have the backing of state funds or initiative to correct the problems.
In the North, the common school movement of the nineteenth century created a sizeable demand for teachers. Northerners took public education more seriously and demanded better teacher training during the latter part of the reform era. Nineteenth century Southern teachers were not well trained or compensated. Less than 20 percent of elementary school teachers had a high school education. In fact, less than half of the teachers received any kind of professional training at all. Southern women lost the opportunity Northern and Western women had to create inroads at public male universities through teaching department enrollment because of the South’s acceptance of ill-qualified teachers.31
For the remainder of the century, the Southern common school system also failed to produce a preponderance of male or female college applicants. By 1900, only one in eight common-school students even reached the eighth grade.32 This dearth resulted from the rural farming geography of the region — where 80 percent of school-aged children lived — and the view that continued education was not neither practical nor a necessity. Right; its rural nature was important The lack of high school graduates contributed to the stalled advancement of public higher education. For instance, the University of Alabama struggled to open due financial concerns and a lack of student demand. The university originally opened in1865 and then closed within the year after it managed to enroll one student. Since fewer Southerners reached high school than in the North or West, fewer colleges and universities formed. The turn-of-the-century South contained 216 colleges and universities, compared to 866 outside the region.33 Even by 1900, higher education development was still not as big of an issue as it was in other parts of the country, so when “progressive” initiatives arose, like coeducation at historically male universities, they were more easily brushed aside. The equal education of women was not considered a serious concern when compared to other issues facing the south. Good; I like the way your argument flows
The South in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s was a place of many socio-economic issues and incredible social turmoil. Emancipation threatened the total upheaval of the agriculture-based economy, education, and social order. Poverty blanketed every state. The war created a Southern “nation”, and the Confederate defeat increased perceptions of regional differences, further punctuating the double consciousness of Southerners. A white man or woman was a Southerner first and an American second. Northern Reconstruction initiatives were regarded as an affront to Southern culture, and some felt, “a more grievous wound than the war itself.”34 As a response, Southerners stubbornly held onto their way of life and despised federal intervention in local community matters. A regional pattern was established of holding onto Southern tradition dearly and paying minor concessions to social reform measures. Rigidly defined sex roles and racial segregation became even more culturally entrenched in an attempt to keep order and honor “Old South” tradition. The higher education enterprise, although more reform-receptive than some other Southern institutions, followed suit by holding onto existing social norms and tradition.35
Possibly the most critical social issue facing the South was how to deal with the “Negro problem” after Emancipation. Southern planters wanted to keep their socio-political hegemony in place. Southerners agreed it was in their best interests to educate the unruly “Negro” masses, but insisted upon separate public schools for blacks and whites regardless of a state’s financial and administrative burden. Historian Amy McCandless believes that Southerners’ opposition to women’s integration of colleges paralleled their opposition to race desegregation of the public higher education system. “Women demanding the vote or attending a historically male college,” she says, “conjured up fears of similar demands by Southern blacks.”36 Some university administrators incorporated this message into their argument to rebuff coeducation requests. Good; I like the way you tie this in. It fits better and makes more sense than in the draft.
The South’s legacy of slavery and oppression of black males and females alike created a Southern view of higher education unique to blacks. African-Americans believed that the moral uplift of the whole race was more important than prescribed gender roles and therefore instructed both men and women at their higher education institutes. This group solidarity and racial uplift ideology differed dramatically from their white counterparts who believed, as historian Linda Perkins contends, “in individual versus group and male versus female achievement.”37 By 1900, African-American missionary associations, freedmen, and Northern philanthropists had established over 34 African-American colleges. Almost all were mixed-gender from inception.38 The push for coeducation at colleges was not a black struggle, it was a white one. Right
The hyper-conscious awareness of difference in the American South – exacerbated by the Confederate loss, Emancipation and the Reconstruction backlash – between black and white, man and woman, and rich and poor produced a highly stratified higher education structure. -- Good! What was an appropriate level of education for a white planter’s son was not appropriate for a poor farmer’s son. Educating men and women together in college was unsavory. Black higher education needed to instill a sense of discipline, servitude and morality, while white male higher education needed to produce leaders. Female college helped shape a girl into ideal “true woman,” but a lower class girl could never achieve this goal socially or financially. The battle to integrate women into men’s colleges from 1830 to 1920 is a history of the white Southern elite and upper middle classes. Planters, wealthy farmers, clergymen, merchants, lawyers and other professionals sent their children to college. In 1870, only 0.7 percent of American women attended college. By the turn of the century, the percentage had increased to just 2.8.39 With this reference point in mind, the most salient factor behind Southern resistance to coeducation can be examined: prescribed white gender roles.
Existing social norms and traditional concepts of gender, class and race dictated a distinct Southern view of the goal of white women and men in education. According to influential Southern historian W. J. Cash’s book, The Mind of the South, the traditional “Old South” view of the Southern planter was a “horseman, a hunter, a farmer, (and maybe) a businessman.” His wife was “the lady on the pedestal, elevated for all to admire and none to touch, sheltered and protected from the harsh realities of life by her lord and master.” The female was valued for her domestic mastery, purity and piety, not for her independence of intellect.40 Revisionist historians like Anne Firor Scott and Catherine Clinton contend that even though Southern society created this romanticized view of the elite white woman leisurely atop the proverbial pedestal, women’s lives were actually quite constricted by a rural, isolated existence, a strong patriarchal ideology, and demanding family and household responsibilities.41 -- Good Regardless, both sets of historians believe that Southerners used traditional romanticized views of the proper role of men and women as justification for restricting women’s access and opportunities.
The boundaries prescribed by gender roles for men and women influenced almost every aspect of higher education in the South, including the perceived function of a college education. The antebellum and “New South” single-sex colleges and universities served, among other purposes, as finishing schools for women and as a status reproduction tool for men. Vanderbilt professor Edward Mims claimed in his 1909 book that because women’s “domestic and social accomplishments were considered of first importance, any education aimed at any other objective was considered unnecessary and undesirable” to Southern women.42 Meanwhile, men attended college to reinforce their class status and learn how to follow in the footsteps of their planter or professional fathers. “Young men came to (UNC) Chapel Hill to confirm their place in society rather than discover a prescription for remaking the world,” states historian James Leloudis.43 1850s men’s schools pedagogical ideology stressed authority, the fixed nature of human relations, and instilled a habit of command. Fathers sent their sons to university to become masters of the plantation and its slaves and/or their respective communities. In the “New South” the students and faculty sought refuge from the progressive ideological tide in Southern tradition. The plantation economy was in disarray, but the institution of the Southern elite white male was not to be threatened. The University of Virginia rebuffed coeducation for over 150 years because of the esteem it held for its “manly tradition.”44 The goal of a majority of private and public university presidents was to hold onto as much of the classical antebellum ideology and curriculum as they could, while making minor concessions as needed. With this approach, they hoped that their institutions would survive the assault of a hostile post-Civil War world.45
At the end of Reconstruction, a new generation of politicians entered the legislature and called for a more practical higher education to help fuel industrialization in the South. At public universities (and some private) the classical curricula was altered to include professional, agriculture, and mechanical training. Courses like chemistry, applied mathematics and journalism joined philosophy and Latin classes. (right; the education became more “practical”, particularly since the rural south had lost to the industrial north) These courses trained students for men’s jobs, and thus females need not be admitted. But whereas the majority of public universities – with or without an industrial focus –outside the South caved to financial needs and moral reasoning and admitted women, most Southern public universities did not cave until the next century because of tradition and gender roles.
Public or private, colleges that stubbornly held onto Southern tradition were not going to admit women into their classrooms. Gender-based arguments against coeducation included the notion that women would lower the standards of the university or become corrupted by the masculine nature of campus life. One of a handful of women admitted to the University of South Carolina in 1897 concluded after she experienced relentless discrimination and disapprobation on campus that “coeducation was not compatible with Southern tradition.”46 (What’s interesting is that the University of South Carolina was also one of (if not the only) white institution that admitted blacks during Reconstruction. It appears that the Reconstruction government opened the college to all of the state’s residents black or white, male or female.) The majority of white women who pursued a college education graduated from single-sex private liberal arts, vocational and denominational colleges from 1865 through 1900. The roll of a women’s college education largely served the same purpose in 1850 as it did in 1900; Women’s colleges were a “frill” or finishing school for the elite and well-off religious Southerners.47 Historian Jane Turner Censer echoed this sentiment when she wrote that when daughters were sent away to college in the New South, “parents (who were part) of the old elite were continuing an earlier kind of training, as all these arts and graces had long been a valued part of a young lady’s education.”48 Antebellum female college curriculum was often limited to religion, home economics, music, drama, and art and reinforced traditional Southern female roles. Postbellum curriculum expanded to include courses such as psychology, nutrition, and ethics. The best women’s private colleges adopted rigorous and intensive liberal arts curricula. Yet none of the private women’s colleges offered professional or vocational courses. Curricula exalted self-discipline, service and grace within the framework of conventional gender roles. Some college marketing materials’ of the time claimed that their institutions produced superior, more refined housewives and mothers. Upon graduation, educated women were expected to conform to the chivalric docile image of a true woman.49
Public university curriculum for women was superior to that provided by private institutions. –interesting An 1898 female graduate of the newly-integrated South Carolina College said she enrolled in the school because she “needed a better education than the one provided by Southern female colleges.”50 Public universities had advanced by the turn of the century and excelled at their mission to prepare students for critical thinking and the professions, including emerging specialty fields. In contrast, private female college curriculum stressed domesticity and the arts. The curriculum of these public universities ranged across the spectrum, from agriculture to law. Peripheral domestic arts courses were added upon women’s entrance. By 1900, only six public universities had admitted women. Women students proved to be token members of the class, restricted from participation in classes and activities, and represented in numbers in the low double digits.51 The presence of women did not mean the acceptance of women.
If financial hardship was the primary reason that colleges adopted coeducation, as is attributed to many Western and Northern universities, the South should have been at the forefront of the movement.—good point In the wake of the Civil War laid the ruins of the Southern economy. The financially vitality of the region – reliant on the slave-dependent cotton industry – was hopelessly crushed. The Civil War diminished a Southerners income to two-fifths of a Northerner, where it stayed for the rest of the century.52 Despite the rapid industrialization and urbanization that occurred throughout the nation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Southerners continued to live in rural areas and make their living off the land. Extensive poverty and sparsely populated areas characterized much of the region. The South contained a smaller middle class who could not afford to send their daughters to private college and their state institutions were closed to women. As Walter H. Page reported in his famous 1897 “Forgotten Man” speech at the North Carolina Normal and Industrial institute, higher education had been established for “the fortunately born and religious well-to-do,” but “all the other women,” he surmised, had been “forgotten.”53 Furthermore, since the South was the poorest region in the United States it could not afford to support separate colleges for men and women – especially while maintaining a public race-segregated elementary school system.54 Only the impoverished state universities, in regions where “Old South” tradition was not as strong, took advantage of the Morrill Act of 1862 and admitted women in the 1870s and 1880s. Border state universities that accepted women during this time period include the University of Arkansas (1872) University of Kentucky (1880) and University of Texas (1883). The Morrill Acts did not provide the wave of coeducation acceptance that it did in the North and West, but the majority of the dozen schools that turned coed by 1910 were land-grant universities. For the most part in the Southern core states, tradition usurped financial reality, and coeducation did not make substantial inroads until after World War I.55
Much like the Morrill Acts proved less of an impetus for coeducation in the South than they had in the North and West, so too did the women’s movement provide a lesser impact. The women’s movement of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century did not find as much of an audience in this region on many issues. For example, the national women’s movement accomplished a major feat with the passage of the equal suffrage amendment in 1920, but pro-women’s suffrage sentiment was so weak in Virginia that the state refused to ratify the nineteenth amendment until 1952.56—wow! As a whole, Southern women more readily accepted their secondary status in order to uphold a stratified bi-racial, gender defined society and defend the region’s social order.57—this is an interesting (and maybe controversial?) claim In the realm of higher education, direct coeducation campaigns sponsored by the women’s movement did not change gender policies except for the University of Alabama. Identification with the movement at the student level was also less common. “Few women saw their entrance as a symbolic statement of sexual equality,” wrote historian Amy McCandless. Most women in the South enrolled in public universities because of the low tuition, convenient location and unique and superior course offerings.58
The first classes of women to attend the dozen coeducational colleges and universities that existed by 1910 experienced very similar academic offerings and social treatment to their peers at the early coed universities of the North, Midwest, and West. The institutions that accepted women were an anomaly in the South, and as such, possessed a more egalitarian view of higher education than their counterparts. All but two were public, half were located in areas not as deeply steeped in “Old South” tradition, and their mission statements ranged the gamut of stated higher educative purposes.
The men’s schools that accepted women during this time period proved an exception to the general Southern rule that females don’t deserve or belong at the top male universities. The same influences that created coeducation in other regions of the country created coeducation at these 12 colleges and universities. Financially burdened Morrill Act recipients counted for 8 of the 12 coed schools, including the South’s first public coed university, the University of Arkansas (1872).—which is interesting since it’s a border state Public institutions were swung by the women’s education advocates’ call for equal access for taxpayers’ sons and daughters. The University of Alabama admitted ten female students after renowned Southern women’s education reformer, Julie Tutwiler, lobbied the Board of Trustees. Schools also decided on reform from within their own ranks. Duke University admitted women after board of trustee and namesake benefactor, Washington Duke, pledged $100,000 for the endowment provided the college "open its doors to women placing them on an equal footing with men." Finally, public and private schools in newly established Southern states tended to be more amenable to coeducation because of less entrenched traditional gender role restriction. Public University of Texas (1882) and private Baylor University (1865), also in Texas, both began as coed institutions. 59
Much like their Northern and Western counterparts, decreasing male enrollment in World War I stimulated female applicant acceptances. The University of South Carolina had admitted a token number of women since 1895, but provided no dormitories for them which limited enrollment to local women. During the war, the university converted a dormitory left empty by soldiers into its first female dormitory, which enabled women who lived outside the area to attend school.60 The College of William and Mary and Virginia Tech unenthusiastically admitted women for the first time, in part, as a result of World War I.
Like their counterparts outside the region that accepted a token number of women, Southern coeducational institutions tended to view men as the primary customer. They were, after all, the South’s natural rulers. When the initial generation of women arrived on campus their education and social life opportunities reflected their secondary status. At many schools, women’s dormitories and restroom facilities were non-existent or second-rate for decades after universities admitted female students.—I find this interesting, particularly since it would seem that they would want to protect the “femininity” and “womanhood” of these women and provide them decent facilities; but, on the other hand, perhaps their second-class student status trumped their woman status. Sometimes classes were segregated or women were entirely restricted to “female” departments. Other schools limited women to two years enrollment. Females faced discrimination inside and outside the classroom and were not admitted into the school as easily as male applicants.
The early coed universities’ academic purposes focused mainly on training in mechanical and agricultural (because of their Morrill Act beneficiary status) or liberal arts. The majority of schools did not alter their core curricula upon women’s entrance, but they did add courses and programs deemed more appropriate for a women’s education. The “female” course offerings were extracurricular, and included art, drama and home economics. Rather than integrate women into the core classes, some state schools restricted women to specific departments and programs. (Oberlin tried to do this for a while with a Women’s Course and a Gentlemen’s Course) The University of Georgia originally confined female cohorts to education and home economics classes.
Treatment in and outside the classroom at these schools highlighted the tension between the noble purpose of women at elite higher education institutes and traditional Southern gender roles. A alumna from the University of North Carolina recalled that women “were required to sit behind screens in classes in order that boys might keep their minds and their eyes on work.”61!!! Just like their Northern and Western counterparts, many male students and faculty resented women’s presence at colleges and universities and openly discriminated against them. At Virginia Tech, male students barred women from appearing in the yearbook and excluded them from membership in many student organizations. At West Virginia University, a professor persisted in calling each girl in class by her last name without prefixing a "Miss" as was common etiquette at the time.62 To some male students and professors, females attending their college were not fitting the conception of “true woman.”
With the exception of the Texan universities, the early coed institutes were all nominally coeducational for the first 2 to 3 decades. –I’m not sure what you mean here This fact reinforced the notion that admittance did not equal acceptance. Some schools resisted raising female enrollment far longer. The University of North Carolina first admitted 3 women in 1897, but was not made fully coeducational until 1963. Equal enrollments at many Southern schools did not occur until the 1980s. Even equal enrollments did not always equate with equal status, as traditional notions of a “southern gentlemen” and southern socialite or belle still exist today.
The distinct Southern view of the gender roles and public education colored every aspect of public and private higher education in the South. The awareness of difference in the South – between black and white, man and woman, rich and poor – further complicated coeducation’s acceptance. What role did a woman play in a higher education institution meant to serve men? This question was asked again and again by Southern college administrators, state legislatures, and parents. The prolonged struggle for an answer reflected the nature of the South that arose from the Civil War and Reconstruction’s ashes.
The South’s view of women was not that different from other regions; it was merely more pronounced. Good point The basic principle that educating women was not as valuable as educating men was the prevailing sentiment throughout all of American society. David Starr Jordon, Stanford University president, explained to those who opposed to Stanford’s coeducation in 1906, “If the college woman is a mistake, Nature will eliminate her.”63! I’ll have to remember this quote. It’s a good one. Discussions of women’s integration are complex because the path and pace at which colleges adopted coeducation was ultimately institution-specific. National trends can be identified and regional influences explained, but each history of a coeducational institution’s admittance and acceptance of women is unique.
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Judith G. Stitzel, Anything But Cordial: Coeducation and West Virginia University's Early
Women. Charleston: West Virginia Historical Society, vol.49, 1990.
1 Barbara Miller Solomon, "The Impact of Oberlin's Coeducational Model on Other Colleges." Educating Women and Men Together Coeducation in a Changing World. ed. Carol Lasser and Sondra J. Peacock (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1987). p.23
2 Rosalind Rosenberg, “The Limits of Access: History of Coeducation in America.” Women and higher education in American History: Essays from the Mount Holyoke College Sesquicentennial Symposia. Ed. John Mack Faragher, Florence Howe. New York: Norton, 1988.
3 Amy Thompson McCandless, The Past in the Present : Women's Higher Education in the Twentieth-Century American South. Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, 1999., p.84, and Barbara Miller Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women: A History of Women and Higher Education in America (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1985):207.
4 Rosenberg, p.107-129
5 Barbara Miller Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women: A History of Women and Higher Education in America (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1985): 55
6 ibid, p.58-59
7 ibid, p.52
8 Rosenberg, p.2
9 Linda M. Perkins, Perkins, Linda M. “The Education of Black Women in the Nineteenth Century”
Women and higher education in American History: Essays from the Mount Holyoke College Sesquicentennial Symposia. Ed. John Mack Faragher, Florence Howe. New York: Norton, 1988. p.64-65
10 'Can she not see and hear, and smell and taste?': Women students at coeducational land-grant universities in the American West, 1868—1917, in Andrea Gayle Radke’s Dissertation, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, p. 1-24
11 Rosenberg, 115
12Kaestle, Carl F. Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools and American society, 1780-1860. New York: Hill and Wang, 1983. 182-184
13 ibid, p.184-187
14 Rosenberg, p 89 and University of Wisonsin and Wilkepedia Encyclopedia, University of Missouri entry
15 Solomon, p.43-61
16 Charlotte Williams Conable, Women at Cornell: The Myth of Equal Education (Ithaca, N.Y.; Cornell University Press, 1977): p.40-42
17 Solomon, 53
18 Thomas Woody, A History of Women’s Education, (New York, Science Press
, 1929) p.271
19 Solomon, p.47, 64
20 ibid,p. 58
21 Rosenberg, p.113
22 Solomon, p.59
23 ibid, 47, 64
24 ibid, p.63
25 Ibid, p. 46
26 Lori D. Ginzburg, “The Joint Education of the Sexes” in Educating Women and Men Together Coeducation in a Changing World, ed. Carol Lasser and Sondra J. Peacock (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1987). p.70
27 Sandra Myers, “Suffering for Suffrage: Western Women and the Struggle for Political, Legal, and Economic Rights,” Western Women and the Frontier Experience, 1800-1915 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982) p. 233
28 Solomon, p.44-53
29 Monore Lee Billington, The American South; A Brief History. (New York: Scribner, 1971) p.286
30 Until the 1890s
31 Billington, 277-290
32 ibid, 270-289
33 Solomon, p.44
34 Kennedy, David M. The American Pageant : A History of the Republic. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2002.p 497
35 McCandless, 1-18 and Kennedy, 495-497
36 McCandless, p.105
37 Perkins, p. 66-67
38 Billington, p.287
39 Solomon, p. 64
40 W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South, (New York, Alfred Knopf, 1941) 1962 edition, p.29-31 ; McCandless, p.6
41 Anne Firor Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1970); Catherine Clinton, The Plantation Mistress: Woman’s World in the Old South (New York: Pantheon, 1982) p.16
42 McCandless, p.6
43 Ibid, p.38
44 ibid, p.93
45 ibid, p. 52
46 ibid, 87
47 ibid, p. 5-8
48 Jane Turner Censer, The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865-1895 (Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press, 2003), p.12
49 McCandless, p. 56-60
50 Coeducation: Women Gained Their Place,” in Carolina Heritage: A Pictorial History of the University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC: Garnet and Black Yearbook, 1976), 23 excerpted in McCandless, p.103
51 McCandless, p.98
52 Kennedy, p. 495
53 McCandless, p.18
54 Billington, 278
55 McCandless, p.8, 83
56 James C. Kelly, The Story of Virginia, An American Experience (Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 2001)
57 Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, p.98
58 McCandless, p.103
59 ibid, p.83-121
60 Ibid, p.88
61 McCandless, 89
62 Rosenberg, 113 and Lillian J. Waugh and Judith G. Stitzel, “Anything But Cordial: Coeducation and West Virginia University's Early Women” (West Virginia Historical Society, 1990) Volume 49 p. 69-80
63 Solomon, p. 207