March
4th 2008
Women’s Colleges are good for women students!

Posted under: Gender, women's history

taylor-tower.jpgDuh.  Historiann attended the exact same undergraduate (and graduate) institutions as the second-most prominent women’s college graduate in the United States since Katherine Hepburn died.  (You know who the most famous American women’s college graduate is!)  It would be nice if women’s colleges graduated proportionately more people who got graduate degrees in something other than the humanities–not that there’s anything wrong with that!–or offered mentoring on grassroots organizing so more women’s college grads would get into politics.  (Much as I admire Senatorella’s career, I must say that following some guy to Arkansas probably did seem like a ticket to nowhere fast, after Wellesley and Yale Law!)  Helping women create new networks of their own could siginficantly bolster the number of women candidates for local and national offices.  And, getting into big money might be a good idea, too.  Wellesley in the 1980s and 1990s had the reputation of channeling their grads into Investment Banking–does anyone know if that paid off in the world of high finance?

Another benefit to attending a women’s college that I’d like to see some data on:  I bet the violent crime rates at women’s colleges are lower than anywhere else–large public universities, co-ed liberal arts colleges, etc., something that’s more important to me now that I’m closer to my students’ parents ages rather than to their ages!  Although I believe that I and my colleagues offer a more rigorous history education to our students than I was offered back in the day, this may be another advantage to attending small women’s colleges.  If you’re willing and able to pay the price, that is–my undergrad institution is now charging between two and three times what I paid in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it seemed insanely expensive then!  Women’s colleges were and are an elite privilege, fer sure.

The question of mentoring has been on my mind, since (oddly enough) the only students I’ve put into Ph.D. programs from my current university are male students (all 2 of them.)  I’ve encouraged women to think about grad school, but they’ve chosen (for various good reasons) to pursue only a master’s degree first, although many of them may well decide to go on to a Ph.D.  My sample size is so small, though–have the rest of you faculty-member types noticed a difference between the men and women students you’ve worked with, in terms of their postgraduate ambitions?  Can feminist faculty members work effectively to counteract the tide against their women students pursuing graduate degrees after attending coeducational big state universities like mine?

8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Women’s Colleges are good for women students!”

  1. Maureen on 04 Mar 2008 at 11:49 am #

    Bryn Mawr ’05 (history!) grad, archivist, librarian and fan of your blog here. Thanks for this post!

  2. Historiann on 04 Mar 2008 at 11:53 am #

    Wow–you are fast! I didn’t even get to post the photo of Taylor Tower yet! (Not the best, but whatevs.) Welcome, and comment again if you’re a fan. Tell us about your mentoring experiences in college, and what your transition to grad school was like.

    And, please tell me that the History department is less moribund now than it was back in Historiann’s day!

  3. Historiann on 04 Mar 2008 at 11:56 am #

    And everyone, please check out Maureen’s blog, with the excellent name of Patriarchive! (Patriarchive.wordpress.org)

  4. Knitting Clio on 04 Mar 2008 at 2:02 pm #

    I got into Smith in 1981, but couldn’t go because it was too expensive. I received a fine education at the University of Vermont and went on to receive a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

    I’ve been teaching a state university (not the flagship) for almost sixteen years. We have placed both women and men in Ph.D. programs. The number in both cases is small, since given the terrible job market in higher education, students tend to pursue careers where there are actually jobs.

    The vast majority of students go into public school teaching, where they do a fine job and make a difference in a lot of lives. Others serve the public good in other ways, such as in libraries, historical societies, non-profit organizations.

    In all cases, good mentoring is essential. While I’m sure the women’s colleges do a good job in that, they don’t have a lock on it.

  5. Historiann on 05 Mar 2008 at 6:59 am #

    Knitting Clio–thanks for your comments. The money factor was daunting then, but it it totally out of reach now. For the price of a Seven Sisters education–if a person completes the degree in 4 years–I could buy a pretty nice house where I live ($45,000 x 4 = $180,000, plus throw in another $20,000 for tuition and fees increases over 4 years.) So, one may need to be an heiress or at the very least have two parents with two professional incomes in order to graduate debt free. (But that may be a fantasy–most students, even those at considerably less expensive places, graduate with substantial debt.)

  6. bittergrrl on 07 Mar 2008 at 4:15 pm #

    Scripps College ’98 – I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now and really enjoy it.

    It’s a little hard for me to compare Scripps to some other women’s colleges because it was almost like attending a co-ed institution with the other Claremont colleges.

    I can’t say that I was discouraged from applying to graduate programs, but I definitely feel like there was more of a push to get a job or find something “useful” than there was to go into the academy. Part of the reasoning was certainly the networking opportunities available. It could also be that I wasn’t at a point in my life where I was ready for academia, and my advisors knew it.

    As a double major I can also say that my advising experiences were different between the two departments. One department was a nightmare, and the other was amazing. Guess which discipline I’m getting my PhD in…yea the one where my advisors and professors were more nurturing and accessible.

    I took a break of about 8 years before going back to get my MA/PhD. When I went back for advice on applying to PhD programs, not only did my undergrad professors remember me, but both of them were helpful, encouraging and excited that they had a student who was inspired enough 8 years later to go back into the academic fray.

  7. Historiann on 07 Mar 2008 at 7:56 pm #

    Hi bittergrll–welcome! Scripps is beautiful–that’s where we had the previous Berkshire Conference in 2005. I was really taken with the campus, which must be among the most beautiful and peaceful in North America–I’m glad you were supported by at least one of your major departments!

    Students sometimes sell themselves too short. We remember the really good ones, even years later, and we’re willing to help out if we can. I had a student knock on my door 10 years later, someone I had taught in my first year as a faculty member, and I remembered her, and she was really surprised and touched. (Interestingly, she’s a sales supervisor for a primary source database that I was hoping my library would finally buy–and we did make a deal!)

    Good luck with grad school–I hope it doesn’t make you more of a “bittergrrl!” (Usually you have to wait for your first job to get your first taste of embitterment.)

  8. HBCUs tops in making African American STEM Ph.D.s : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 05 Sep 2008 at 6:58 am #

    [...] = science, technology, engineering, and math.)  In some ways, this is not surprising:  given the data we have about the greater percentages of graduate degrees among women who attended women’…, it would make a lot of sense that African American students who have the opportunity to study in [...]