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." 


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 founded… 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;

expand opportunities, provided network;

now American Association of Univ. Women;


health of college women - on trial

Harvard doctor Edward Clarke;




“fashionable illness” 1800s:

corset, death in childbirth, “nervous disorders”;

"Little Women" - Beth;

woman as ultimate in fragility - ultra-sensitive, hyper-emotional;  


1870, "as if the Almighty, in creating the female sex, had taken the uterus and built up a woman around it."

1900 president AN 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"

"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."

men 1800s - warnings against masturbation,

1901 gynecologist, "A woman may be highly cultured & accomplished, but her future husband will discover too late that he has married a large outfit of headaches & backaches instead of a woman fitted to take up the duties of life."  

1895 study - only 28% women college grads married, compared to 80% total women. "Colleges may come to be training stations for the sterile woman - aunt, maiden, nun, schoolteacher or unmarried woman."

1869 "Mentally, socially, spiritually, woman is more interior than man.  Woman is to deal w/ domestic affections, not with philosophies & sciences."

women's nature defined in terms of reproductive capacity;

Analogies comparing body to economic system - limited resources;

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


"rest cure"

Charlotte Perkins Gilman 1880s "nervous disease",

"Live as domestic a life as possible.   Have your child w/ 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."


1886 study by Mass Labor Bureau showed 78% college women good or excellent health;1900 study showing college women had healthier kids.


Health reformer Dudley Sargent

data on over 10,000 men & women - "normal" body proportions.


Women's advocate Catherine Beecher: a"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."


Ladies' Physiological Institute of Boston - 1848, over 450 members first year.

"to promote among women a knowledge of the human system, the laws of life & health, & the means of relieving sickness & suffering."

Criticism - an "abomination, inasmuch as they excite a vulgar curiosity to see & hear things that only belong to professional eyes & ears."

Looking at "specimens appertaining to the delicate subjects of conception, gestation, manual & instrumental labor, deformed genitals has been demoralizing & mischievous."

"able-bodied womanhood".

Link between issues of women's health & women's rights.


Amelia Bloomer: dress reform

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: trying to “carry water and fat babies upstairs and down… run errands through mud or snow, shovel paths and work in the garden [in long skirts] is too much - one might as well work with a ball and chain.”

"Imagine her in a full black satin frock cut off at the knees, with Turkish trousers of the same material. I have seen scarecrows that did credit to farmer boys ingenuity, but never one better calculated to scare all birds, beasts & human beings."

Stanton, "we put on the new style for greater freedom, but what is physical freedom compared with mental bondage?  By all means, have my new dress made long."