male seminaries - preparation for ministry, female seminary for teaching & motherhood.

public high schools:

"fit wives for educated men"

NY's Female HS: "I would not wish to be understood as advocating their [girls'] attention to any abstract branch of science.  Such knowledge is not necessary for them."


1833 Oberlin; first women's degrees 1842;

coeducation 1860s Iowa & Wisconsin,

1870s Michigan, Maine & Cornell. 


all-women's schools - Seven Sisters:


1837 Mary Lyon establishes Mount Holyoke (South Hadley, Mass)

preparation for New England teachers 

student-teacher relation echo mother-daughter link

82.5% graduates before 1850 taught school;

missionaries & homemakers;


1860 Vassar, first endowed women's college (Poughkeepsie, NY)

Matthew Vassar

"to build & endow a College for young women which shall be to them what Yale & Harvard are to young men."


fear - education "unsexing" women

Founder: "lest by too close an imitation of studies of ordinary colleges, we should impair womanliness in our students & encourage the formation of those mannish tastes & manners which are so disgusting to every right mind." 


medical lecture room, geology collections, astronomical observatory.


Maria Mitchell - discovered new comet 1847. 

gold medal from King of Denmark. 

Elected first woman member American Academy of Arts & Sciences;

first woman American Association for Advancement of Science;

1865 Vassar, "the best educated women in the world."


Mitchell: "the perceptive faculties of women are more acute than those of men.  Women would perceive the size, form & color of an object more readily & would catch an impression more quickly.  The training of girls (bad as it is) leads them to develop these faculties.  The fine needlework & the embroidery teach them to measure small spaces.  The same delicacy of eye & touch is needed to bisect the image of a star as to piece delicate muslin.  The small fingers too come into play with a better adaptation to delicate micrometer screws."

whole generation of America's first female astronomers.


1875 Wellesley (outside Boston)

women presidents, trustees, all-female faculty;

Henry Durant

"What would Massachusetts be if our 9000 women teachers were all of them educated Christians?" 


"we revolt against the slavery in which women are held by the customs of society - the broken health, the aimless lives, the subordinate position, the helpless dependence, and shams of so-called education.  The higher education of women is the cry of the oppressed slave, the assertion of absolute equality, the war of Christ."


1875 Smith College (Northampton, Mass)

Sophie Smith

"design to furnish for my own sex means & facilities for education equal to those which are afforded now to young men.  It is not my design to render my sex any the less feminine, but to develop as fully as may be the powers of womanhood & furnish women with means of usefulness, happiness & honor now withheld from them."

"It is to preserve her womanliness that this College has been foundedÉ More time will be devoted than in other colleges to aesthetical study, to the arts of drawing and the acquisition of musical skill." 


"Is it mere prejudice which causes so general a feeling of aversion to some women whose energy, heroism & ability we cannot but admire?  Has not their training repressed their amiable qualities & made them very frequently excessively conceited?" 

Didn't want "the gentlewoman to be lost in the strongminded."

"What if the same forces which develop all that is most manly in one sex repress & dwarf all that is most womanly in the other?"


1885 Bryn Mawr (PA) - graduate degrees

President M. Carey Thomas - PhD Univ Zurich


1878 Radcliffe - Arthur Gilman

Harvard Annex - "The Society for the Collegiate Instruction of women" 


"to afford to women opportunities for carrying their studies systematically forward further than it is possible for them now to do in this country."


"a number of professors in Harvard have consented to give private tuition to properly qualified young women who desire to pursue advanced studies in Cambridge.  No instruction will be provided of a lower grade than that given in Harvard."

Soon attracts 27 students;

official limbo - no buildings, no faculty;

"our students quietly pursue their occupations as unnoticed as the daughters of any Cambridge residents." 


1889 Barnard - annex to Columbia;


1891 over 10,000 women in colleges - over 33% all students in college;

1881 Association of Collegiate Alumnae;

isolated - "few ways outside the home in which such equipment of knowledge might be utilized to advantage."

expand opportunities, provided network;

now American Association of Univ. Women;


health of college women - on trial

Harvard doctor Edward Clarke;


women's nature defined in terms of reproductive capacity;

1870 doctor, "as if the Almighty, in creating the female sex, had taken the uterus and built up a woman around it."   Menstruation, child-bearing, menopause;

1900 president American Gynecology Society, "Many a young life is battered & forever crippled on the breakers of puberty; if it crosses these unharmed & is not dashed to pieces on the rock of childbirth, it may still ground on the ever-recurring shallows of menstruation, & lastly upon the final bar of the menopause ere protection is found in the unruffled waters of the harbor beyond reach of sexual storms." 

Menopause "death of the woman in the woman"

popular health manuals, "We cannot too emphatically urge the importance of regarding these monthly returns [menstruation] as period of ill health, when ordinary occupations are to be suspended or modified.  Long walks, dancing, shopping, riding & parties should be avoided at this time of month under all circumstances."

Analogies comparing body to economic system - limited resources;

upper-class or middle-class women; doctors concluded lower-class women more "coarse";


Illness fashionable 1800s:

corset, death in childbirth;

"Little Women" - Beth;

Age of hysterical woman - ultimate in fragility - ultra-sensitive, hyper-emotional;

women's way of fighting back, claim attention, avoid sex;

Popularity of "rest cure";

Charlotte Perkins Gilman 1880s "nervous disease" - doctor told her, "Live as domestic a life as possible.   Have your child with you all the time.  Lie down an hour after each meal.  have but two hours intellectual life a day, and never touch pen, brush or pencil as long as you live."  Gilman: "I came perilously close to losing my mind."


Wellesley "large gymnasium where students are instructed in calisthenics."

course in human anatomy & hygiene;

"Few of us who were put through our course in the little old cramped & battered College Hall gymnasium have ever worn unnatural shoes, gone deliberately without sleep, or grown round-shouldered without a guilty sense of having fallen below Miss Hill's standard of intelligent living."

"women who will make the next generation strong, who are strong themselves & able to cope with the struggles of the workaday world."  

Extracurricular sports - rowing,tennis, bicycling, archery, golf, baseball & basketball - sports "develop a young girls' character while she develops her muscles." 

Worry too competitive, unfeminine.   "Overstraining might defeat the goal of skill & grace in sports.  What we aim at is to keep the girls physical beings on a par with their intellectual beings."


Health reformer Dudley Sargent quantitative study of human body, data on over 10,000 men & women - charts of "normal" body.

Fear athletics making women more masculine;


Idea balance physical health & femininity;

Catherine Beecher: the "perfectly healthy woman" was one "who can through the whole day be actively employed on her feet in all kinds of domestic duties without injury, & constantly & habitually has a feeling of perfect health & perfect freedom from pain."

idea of "able-bodied womanhood"

Close connection between issues of women's health & women's rights;