In the history of higher education, the education of women is important because throughout history, and “her-story”, women have been subjected to mistreatment and discrimination in the field of education and especially higher education. Women were typically restricted to more domestic roles and not allowed the privilege of their counterparts to go to college or even pursue higher education as a profession. Therefore, this section of the history of higher education should be noted as a subject worthy of scholarship in regards to diversity in education.
Enrollment of women at Institutions
Higher education for women started out with a more incremental approach in regards to actual receptivity by women. However, once higher education became available to women, their enrollments in institutions increased drastically. According to John Thelin, enrollments of women during the early were small compared with those of men. In fact, there are no records of colonial women receiving a degree during this time. However, However, over 14 institutions are recorded as to enrolling women between 1800 and 1860, (Thelin 2004 p.55).
Universities in the South and Midwest appeared to be more receptive to women in education during the 1840s and 1850s. Specifically, states that contained institutions were Illinois (Knox University), Georgia, (Wesleyan Seminary) and Alabama ( Masonic University). In fact, Thelin states that “elite families in the South financially contributed to the creation of some of these colleges that provided rigorous academic education along with subjects that prepared their daughters for domestic roles such as household hostess, supervisor, wife, and mother (Thelin 2004 p.56).
Higher Education for Women-Post War Period
Muhammed Yunus says, Higher education can be an escalator not only for personal success, but also for the capacity one needs to transform his or her wider society, (Hoon 2010 p.37). This proved to be true for higher education for women from 1945 to 1965. Linda Eisenmann writes that higher education for women during this post cold war period was not as recognized as higher education for women. Women that were in higher education during this period of America’s history were restricted in their academic pursuits by the current war climate that was happening around them. According to Linda, their lives were “interrupted due to family commitments,” (Ware 2008 p.145).
During this period, for women in higher education, there were “two interpretive challenges and one revisionist task” according to Esenmann; and the first concerns women’s invisible appearance to the educational leaders at that time, (Ware p.146). Women made up almost one third of college students during this time, However they did have a heavy presence among the leaders in academia during this time.
The second challenge concerns activism and the support of women’s issues during this period. Initially, the progressive protestors did not want to support feminism and women’s liberation. According to Esenmann, “the educational activists spoke by necessity in muted tones that downplayed basic political and institutional change in favor of an emphasis on individual choice”, (Ware p.146). In other words, the organizations that was progressively supporting women’s advancement during this time such as the national association of deans of women, and the commission on the education of women did not do an adequate job in regards to fighting for equal rights for women in education.
Higher Education for Women Today
Women operating in the institutional function of “academic” are the result of state universities commitment to diversity. For example, the University of Chicago has held a commitment to education for women, as well as its reception of female academic administrators, since its beginnings. In fact, Alice Palmer Freeman was recruited to be the first dean of women at the University of Chicago. According to Thelin, women at the University of Chicago accounted for 33-50 percent of those enrolled. However, they were not as well received in the academic job market. (Thelin 2004 p.143).
According to Maslak fewer women than men enroll in and graduate from institutions of higher education (Maslak ,2005 p.280). However, higher education is believed to be the foundation upon which an economically sufficient life is built. The women that are enrolled and functioning at the institutional level are the results of progressive attempt to establish equal rights and equal privileges regardless of gender. L. Wirth suggests that a major factor contributing to women’s growing participation in professional and managerial work is the fact that they have availed themselves of the higher educational and training opportunities opened up to them in most countries in recent years (Wirth, 2001).
In the academic job market, some administrators in higher education placed unnecessary restraints on their female colleagues. Agnes Faye Morgan, PhD, joined the faculty at the University of California-Berkely in order to build a home economics program. However, her substantial contributions to her field were not enough to prevail against unfair deans and presidents. Women faculty were not even allowed to enter the faculty club or to march in academic processions at graduation, and they were even given extra duties that violated their academic freedom to contribute to their field. (Thelin, 2004 p.143).
As a whole, the institutions of higher education have acted progressively in regards to allowing women the same opportunities as their counterparts. Women in higher education have also fought through discriminatory circumstances in education, as well as domestic labels society has placed on them, in order to “stay afloat” in this male-dominated arena. Women have operated in every capacity; as student, administrator, faculty, staff, and finally as academic despite all of the hardships that they faced. Today, women are leading the men in education. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, women earned 45.1 percent of bachelor’s degrees in business in 1984-5 and 50 percent by 2001-2, up from only 9.1 percent in 1970-1.”
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