Determination and Resistance
Introduction and Reading Strategies
The establishment of higher education for women in the United States in the years following the Civil War was not without its detractors. The primary sources gathered in this module illustrate the controversy surrounding its early growth and development.
While working with these texts, students should be reminded of the historical construction of gender evidenced here. In order for students to understand Edward Clarke’s and Stanley Hall’s critiques of women’s education, teacher should contextualize these writers’ particular renderings of women’s reproductive health and pathology in a period that gave credence to the findings of biological determinists. Darwinian scientists and physicians contended that women were mentally and physically inferior to men, a deficit that education could never overcome. Beyond this fundamental difference, Clarke and Hall provided popular medical endorsements for an emerging belief that higher education imperiled women’s reproductive health, a contention that roused the court of public opinion into action.
M. Carey Thomas’s two full essays and one more informal excerpt from a chapel talk reveal her determination to counterbalance narratives of fear and
Influential biological determinists such as Dr. Edward H. Clarke and Dr. G. Stanley Hall argued that women’s bodies could not withstand the rigors of advanced scholarship.