The ‘Woman Question’ and Higher Education

The ‘Woman Question’ and Higher Education

Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America

Edited by Ann Mari May

This uniquely interdisciplinary study offers a provocative, contemporary look at the ‘Woman Question’ in relation to higher education at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Leading feminist scholars from a wide variety of perspectives and disciplines — including history, philosophy, education, psychology, sociology, and economics — evaluate the role of biology, discrimination, and choice in rationalizing women’s exclusion from fully participating in the process of knowledge production, as well as examining institutional impediments. Contextualizing arguments against women’s inclusion and including contemporary perspectives on gender, this book offers a rich, multi-layered examination and critical insights into understanding the near universal difficulties that women encounter as they seek to participate fully in the process of knowledge production.

Chapter 3: Gender, Professional Knowledge, and Institutional Power: Women Social Scientists and the Research University

Mary Ann Dzuback

Subjects: economics and finance, economics of education, education, economics of education


1 Mary Ann Dzuback Although US universities in the early twentieth century offered the promise of meritocratic entry into the academic profession via the graduate training they provided, they did not fulfill that promise for women. Most women who trained for the PhD in social sciences—the focus of this chapter—and who remained in academia could only find positions in colleges. There they pursued scholarship, teaching, and service, the three central activities of the professional scholar, but found themselves restricted by the expectations of large teaching loads, limited resources, and lack of opportunity to train graduate students in these largely teaching institutions. Yet even in these environments, women social scientists created thriving careers, pursued research, located financial support for their research, and in the end transformed the colleges to be more receptive to faculty and student scholarship. In contrast, the few women scholars who were hired by universities as teachers and/or scholars had to negotiate carefully these institutional cultures, which were not by and large hospitable to women researchers, in an effort to obtain the recognition and support their male counterparts routinely received. The focus of this chapter is on women who, in the 1920s and 1930s, did make a place for themselves as researchers in American universities, how they accomplished this, and what they accomplished. I use four institutional cases to examine women’s strategies within particular institutional cultures and historical contexts. The two primary cases are women at the Wharton School of the University of...

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