From the end of Reconstruction through World War II, a network of public colleges for white women flourished throughout the South. Founded primarily as vocational colleges to educate women of modest economic means for life in the emerging “new” South, these schools soon transformed themselves into comprehensive liberal arts-industrial institutions, proving so popular that they became among the largest women’s colleges in the nation. In this illuminating volume, David Gold and Catherine L. Hobbs examine rhetorical education at all eight of these colleges, providing a better understanding of not only how women learned to read, write, and speak in American colleges but also how they used their education in their lives beyond college.
With a collective enrollment and impact rivaling that of the Seven Sisters, the schools examined in this studyMississippi State College for Women (1884), Georgia State College for Women (1889), North Carolina College for Women (1891), Winthrop College in South Carolina (1891), Alabama College for Women (1896), Texas State College for Women (1901), Florida State College for Women (1905), and Oklahoma College for Women (1908)served as important centers of women’s education in their states, together educating over a hundred thousand students before World War II and contributing to an emerging professional class of women in the South. After tracing the establishment and evolution of these institutions, Gold and Hobbs explore education in speech arts and public speaking at the colleges and discuss writing instruction, setting faculty and departmental goals and methods against larger institutional, professional, and cultural contexts. In addition to covering the various ways the public women’s colleges prepared women to succeed in available occupations, the authors also consider how women’s education in rhetoric and writing affected their career choices, the role of race at these schools, and the legacy of public women’s colleges in relation to the history of women’s education and contemporary challenges in the teaching of rhetoric and writing.
The experiences of students and educators at these institutions speak to important conversations among scholars in rhetoric, education, women’s studies, and history. By examining these previously unexplored but important institutional sites, Educating the New Southern Woman provides a richer and more complex history of women’s rhetorical education and experiences.
About the Author
David Gold, an associate professor of English at the University of Michigan, is the author of Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1873-1947 (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008), winner of the 2010 Conference on College Composition and Communication Outstanding Book Award.
Catherine L. Hobbs, a professor of English at the University of Oklahoma, is the editor of Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write (1995) and the author of Rhetoric on the Margins of Modernity: Vico, Condillac, Monboddo (Southern Illinois University Press, 2002) and The Elements of Autobiography and Life Narratives (2005).
They previously collaborated on an edited collection, Rhetoric, History, and Women’s Oratorical Education: American Women Learn to Speak (2013).
Table of Contents
Introduction: Peculiar Institutions 1
1 Making Modern Girls: The Ideals of the Southern Public Colleges for Women 15
2 Effective Literacy: Writing Instruction and Student Writing 35
3 Evolution of Expression: Speech Arts and Public Speaking 58
4 Useful Careers: Professional Training for Women of the New South 85
5 The Absent Presence of Race 109
Conclusion: A Continuing Legacy 132
Appendix: Name Changes of Southern Public Colleges for Women 143