Changing the Subject: How the Women of Columbia Shaped the Way We Think About Sex and Politics

Changing the Subject: How the Women of Columbia Shaped the Way We Think About Sex and Politics

by Rosalind Rosenberg

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This remarkable story begins in the years following the Civil War, when reformers—emboldened by the egalitarian rhetoric of the post–Civil War era—pressed New York City's oldest institution of higher learning to admit women in the 1870s. Their effort failed, but within twenty years Barnard College was founded, creating a refuge for women scholars at Columbia, as well as an academic beachhead "from which women would make incursions into the larger university." By 1950, Columbia was granting more advanced degrees to women and hiring more female faculty than any other university in the country.

In Changing the Subject, Rosalind Rosenberg shows how this century-long struggle transcended its local origins and contributed to the rise of modern feminism, furthered the cause of political reform, and enlivened the intellectual life of America's most cosmopolitan city. Surmounting a series of social and institutional obstacles to gain access to Columbia University, women played a key role in its evolution from a small, Protestant, male-dominated school into a renowned research university. At the same time, their struggles challenged prevailing ideas about masculinity, femininity, and sexual identity; questioned accepted views about ethnicity, race, and rights; and thereby laid the foundation for what we now know as gender. From Lillie Devereux Blake, Annie Nathan Meyer, and Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve in the first generation, through Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Zora Neale Hurston in the second, to Kate Millett, Gerda Lerner, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the third, the women of Columbia shook the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231126441
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 11/03/2004
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,211,159
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Rosalind Rosenberg is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of History at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of Beyond Separate Spheres: Intellectual Roots of Modern Feminism and Divided Lives: American Women in the Twentieth Century.

Table of Contents

1. The Battle Over Coeducation
2. Establishing Beachheads
3. City of Women
4. Patterns of Culture
5. Womanpower
6. Sexual Politics
7. The Battle over Coeducation Renewed

What People are Saying About This

David A. Hollinger

A thoroughly captivating, impressively documented account of how women found their way into one of the nation's greatest but most misogynist universities and how they changed it and the society around it.

Estelle B. Freedman

Changing the Subject succeeds not only as a compelling narrative of women's experiences at Columbia but also by making a persuasive argument about women's impact on the university, in New York City, and on academic inquiry into gender. From the founding of Barnard College and the struggle to admit women to Columbia's graduate programs in the nineteenth century to the coexistence of coeducation and a separate women's college in the late twentieth century, this history is filled with vivid characters--faculty, students, and administrators--who helped reshape higher education in America.

Catharine R. Stimpson

A compelling, important, and ultimately inspiring book about some determined women and their male allies in New York City, associated with Barnard College and Columbia University, who made the world a different and better place. I play a modest part in Rosalind Rosenberg's history, and now offer her my gratitude and praise.

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