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ERIC Number: EJ998997
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 35
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1467-9620
"Citizenship for the College Girl": Challenges and Opportunities in Higher Education for Women in the United States in the 1930s
Nash, Margaret A.; Romero, Lisa S.
Teachers College Record, v114 n2 2012
Background/Context: Little research has been done on higher education for women during the 1930s, even though scholars have pointed to this period as a turning point because the proportion of female students declined during this decade. The decline was only relative, however, as men's enrollments skyrocketed while women's increased more slowly. This article seeks to understand women's continually increasing numbers, rather than the relative decline in enrollment. Purpose/Objective/Research Question: During a time of economic hardship, what justifications were used to encourage women to attend college? What purposes or rationales were part of the national discourse that made it possible for ever-increasing numbers of young women to attend and graduate from college? Research Design: Our research consists of historical analysis of printed archival material from 1929-1940. Primary material was drawn from original print editions of the Readers' Guide to Periodic Literature and the electronic version of Reader's Guide Retro. We divided journals into popular magazines and academic journals, and coded all articles indexed under the terms "College, students, women," "Education of women," and "College women." We analyzed 128 articles from popular magazines and 85 articles from academic journals. This provided a rich source of magazine and journal articles considered significant during the period studied. After coding and choosing the themes for our focus, we looked for related articles from newspapers; we used electronically archived materials from the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. To avoid an east/west coast urban bias, and in an effort to include an African-American perspective, we supplemented this with material from smaller Midwestern and African-American presses including the Daily Illini, The Chicago Defender, Columbia Missourian, Hannibal Courier, and the Urbana Daily Courier. Conclusions: Two primary discourses were evident in newspapers, periodicals, and academic journals that encouraged women to attend college in the 1930s. The first was that of eugenics. Previous scholarship on eugenics tends to emphasize how eugenics was used to discourage women from advanced schooling, as postponing childbearing meant a reduction in the birthrate. We argue that while this argument was indeed present in national literature, eugenic arguments were used as well to encourage women's college attendance. In this view, educated women produced healthier future generations and therefore served eugenic interests. The second primary discourse was that of the need for education for citizenship. The periodical literature reveals an emphasis on colleges teaching women about the responsibilities of voting, volunteerism, and promoting peace and social unity.
Teachers College, Columbia University. P.O. Box 103, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027. Tel: 212-678-3774; Fax: 212-678-6619; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California; Illinois; Missouri; New York