"The real college is within us" : the transformation of women's higher education in Tennessee from 1880 to 1925 /
KeywordsWomen Education Tennessee
Education, Higher Tennessee History
History, United States
Education, History of
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AbstractAdviser: Carroll Van West.
The paradoxical nature of higher education for women became apparent in the period between 1880 and 1925. Women gained access to colleges and universities at an incredible rate during this period and took advantage of the opportunities a higher education provided. Yet, the colleges and universities they entered often perpetuated the traditional female stereotypes through their continued emphasis on subjects deemed appropriate for women. This limited education kept many women from exploring career options beyond conventional ones.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one contingent of educational reformers focused on standardizing the higher education system. In Tennessee, leaders in educational reform campaigned to modernize the state's colleges and universities by staging public support campaigns, creating regulatory organizations, and promoting legislation. These changes impacted women's higher education through the resulting dominance of male-centered coeducation and the decline of the women's college. Consequently just as women began entering the higher education system in large numbers, their educational choices grew more limited. Evidence of the changing educational market can be found at colleges throughout Tennessee. Tennessee College for Women, Ward-Belmont College, Fisk University, and Maryville College provided women with experiences that were somewhat different but their resulting career opportunities remained quite similar.
Today, the built environment of college campuses that date from this period of flux provides historians with additional resources to study. These resources offer insight into the way women and men were perceived in the college environment and how the college fit into the greater cultural landscape. The preservation of this built environment is imperative to the study of the transformation of women's higher education in Tennessee.