Our Rightful Place: A History of Women at the University of Kentucky, 1880--1945

Our Rightful Place: A History of Women at the University of Kentucky, 1880--1945

by Terry Birdwhistell, Deirdre A. Scaggs


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In 1880, forty-three women walked into the president's office at the University of Kentucky (UK) and signed the student register, becoming the first female students at a public college in the commonwealth. But gaining admittance was only the beginning. For the next sixty-five years — encompassing two world wars, an economic depression, and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment — generations of women at UK claimed and reclaimed their right to an equitable university experience. Their work remains unfinished.

Drawing on yearbooks, photographs, and other private collections, Our Rightful Place: A History of Women at the University of Kentucky, 1880—1945 examines the struggle for gender equity in higher education through the lens of one major institution. In the face of shifting resistance, pioneering women constructed opportunities for themselves. Terry L. Birdwhistell and Deirdre A. Scaggs highlight three women — Sarah Blanding, Frances Jewell McVey, and Sarah Bennett Holmes — who fought for access to basic facilities that were denied to UK women for decades, including housing and study spaces. By examining the trials and triumphs of UK's first female undergraduates, faculty, and administrators, this book uncovers the lasting impact women had on higher learning in the early days of coeducation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813179377
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 07/21/2020
Series: Topics in Kentucky History
Pages: 262
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Terry L. Birdwhistell is senior oral historian and founding director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries. He is former president of the Oral History Association and previously served as Dean of Libraries at UK Libraries. He has contributed to numerous collections, including The Encyclopedia of Louisville and The Kentucky Encyclopedia, and is co-general editor of Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History Series. His articles have appeared in publications such as Kentucky Law Journal and the Kentucky Review.

Deirdre A. Scaggs is associate dean of the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center. She also serves as director of the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. She is author of Women in Lexington and coauthor of The Historic Kentucky Kitchen: Traditional Recipes for Today's Cook.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

1 First Women and the Will to Succeed 9

2 Frances Jewell McVey and the Refinement of Student Culture 57

3 Sarah Blanding and the Modern College Woman 101

4 Economic Depression and an Uncertain Future 130

5 World War II and the Illusion of Equality 164

Epilogue 191

Acknowledgments 195

Notes 197

Bibliography 227

Index 237

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

" Our Rightful Place combines archival documents and rare period piece photographs to enhance our understanding of women as academic pioneers at the University of Kentucky. It also fills significant gaps about regional history and higher education in the South. Scaggs and Birdwhistell bring to life the contributions of women as members of the campus community at the University of Kentucky during the crucial decades from 1880 to 1950." — John R. Thelin, author of A History of American Higher Education, Third Edition

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