This book documents and analyses an aspect of social change in England: the opening of higher education to women. Because college education for women developed in the second half of the 19th century, the opening of higher education to women has been viewed as an 'unexpected revolution'. This book challenges such an assumption, by indicating that the education of women had been the subject of debate and serious discussion at least since the Renaissance, and it illustrates how print culture brought the debate into the public domain and contributed to the eventual opening of higher education to women.
The publications examined in this study indicate that formal higher education for women had been anticipated by a significant number of 17th-, 18th-, and early 19th-century writers whose works are here contextualized for the first time. While the focus of this study has been on printed sources, attention has also been paid to the personal papers of individuals who directly influenced the eventual opening of university education to women, and who illustrated that the success of the struggle for women's education was due to the ability of a few individuals to realize ambitions which had been held for generations.