Challenged by Coeducation: Women's Colleges Since the 1960s / Edition 1

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Challenged by Coeducation details the responses of women's colleges to the most recent wave of Women's colleges originated in the mid-nineteenth century as a response to women's exclusion from higher education. Women's academic successes and their persistent struggles to enter men's colleges resulted in coeducation rapidly becoming the norm, however. Still, many prestigious institutions remained single-sex, notably most of the Ivy League and all of the Seven Sisters colleges.

In the mid-twentieth century colleges' concerns about finances and enrollments, as well as ideological pressures to integrate formerly separate social groups, led men's colleges, and some women's colleges, to become coeducational. The admission of women to practically all men's colleges created a serious challenge for women's colleges. Most people no longer believed women's colleges were necessary since women had virtually unlimited access to higher education. Even though research spawned by the women's movement indicated the benefits to women of a "room of their own," few young women remained interested in applying to women's colleges.

Challenged by Coeducation details the responses of women's colleges to this latest wave of coeducation. Case studies written expressly for this volume include many types of women's colleges-Catholic and secular; Seven Sisters and less prestigious; private and state; liberal arts and more applied; northern, southern, and western; urban and rural; independent and coordinated with a coeducational institution. They demonstrate the principal ways women's colleges have adapted to the new coeducational era: some have been taken over or closed, but most have changed by admitting men and thereby becoming coeducational, or by offering new programs to different populations. Some women's colleges, mostly those that are in cities, connected to other colleges, and prestigious with a high endowment, still enjoy success.

Despite their dramatic drop in numbers, from 250 to fewer than 60 today, women's colleges are still important, editors Miller-Bernal and Poulson argue. With their commitment to enhancing women's lives, women's colleges and formerly women's colleges can serve as models of egalitarian coeducation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Leslie Miller-Bernal and Susan Poulson offer a new perspective on the familiar topic of coeducation and women's colleges.
--Catholic Historical Review

...comprehensive, accessible, and offers valuable information for those interested in gender equality in higher education.
--Contemporary Sociology

A fair, balanced account of the circumstances surrounding coeducation--both its benefits and its limitations.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826515421
  • Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Leslie Miller-Bernal, Professor of Sociology at Wells College, is the author of Separate by Degree: Women Students' Experiences in Women's and Coeducational Colleges and co-editor of Going Coed: Women's Experiences in Formerly Men's Colleges and Universities, 1950-2000 (Vanderbilt University Press). .

Susan L. Poulson is Professor of History at the University of Scranton. Together with Leslie Miller-Bernal, she co-edited Going Coed: Women's Experiences in Formerly Men's Colleges and Universities, 1950-2000 (Vanderbilt University Press).

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Table of Contents



Part One: The Place of Women's Colleges in Higher Education

Chapter 1: A History of Women's Colleges
Leslie Miller-Bernal

Part Two: Case Studies of Women's Colleges That Have Become Coeducational or Closed

Chapter 2. Vassar College: A Seven Sisters College Chooses Coeducation
Elizabeth Daniels and Clyde Griffen

Chapter 3. Coeducation at Wheaton College: From Conscious Coeducation to Distinctive Coeducation
Alan Sadovnik and Susan Semel

Chapter 4. A Catholic Women's College is Absorbed by a University: The Case of Mundelein College
Prudence Moylan

Chapter 5. Texas Woman's University: Threats to Institutional Autonomy and Conflict Over the Admission of Men
Claire L. Sahlin

Chapter 6. Wells College: The Transition to Coeducation Begins
Leslie Miller-Bernal

Part Three: Case Studies of Women's Colleges That Have Remained Single-Sex

Chapter 7. Reaffirming the Value of a Women's College: Mills College Changes Its Mind About Admitting Men Undergraduates
Marianne Sheldon

Chapter 8. Simmons College: Meeting the Needs of Women Workers
Susan Poulson

Chapter 9. Spelman College: A Place All Their Own
Frances D. Graham and Susan Poulson

Chapter 10. College of Notre Dame: The Oldest Catholic Women's College Changes with the Times
Dorothy Brown and Eileen O'Dea, SSND

Part Four: Case Studies of Affiliated Women's Colleges

Chapter 11. Rekindling a Legacy: Barnard College Remains a Women's College
Andrea Walton

Chapter 12. Cambridge University's Two Oldest Women's Colleges, Girton and Newnham
Leslie Miller-Bernal

Part Five: Conclusions

Chapter 13. The State of Women's Colleges Today
Leslie Miller-Bernal and Susan Poulson

Appendix 1. Statement of Six Past Presidents of Formerly Women's Colleges, 2000: "Exceptional Coed Colleges: A New Model for Gender Equality"

Appendix 2. List of Women's Colleges in Spring 2005 and Some Summary Characteristics

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