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Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / Wisconsin women, graduate school, and the professions
(1980)

Droste, Jean
Chapter 1: Vocational aspirations and job realities: a look at some women receiving Ph. D.'s prior to 1926,   pp. 1-10


Page 2


they needed students. Thus the university encouraged students, both male
and female, to matriculate in the graduate school.
By the 1930s any opposition to the graduate school had almost disap-
peared.6 Before 1930 any graduate who had successfully completed a four-
year course of liberal study of an approved university or college would be
ad-
mitted to the graduate school without examination, but by the third decade
of
the twentieth century the university began to be selective in its admission
policies.7 With a stricter entrance policy the women graduate students were
the first to suffer. In the years from 1931 to 1936 the percentage of women
in graduate school dropped three percent from the preceding five-year
period."
Charles Slichter, a mathematics professor, became dean of the graduate
school in 1920. A Wisconsin Ph.D., Mary Van Renassaler Buell, said that
though she was the only graduate woman studying in the Wisconsin bio-
chemistry department, she was never aware of any prejudice because she was
a woman.9 Many other women who received their Ph.D.'s at Wisconsin had
similar experiences. Mrs. Karl Young believed that "great kindness and
con-
sideration" were accorded her by her colleagues and superiors.10 Mrs.
Victor
Albjerg felt that her major professor, the noted historian, Carl Russell
Fish,
had a liberal attitude. "Professor Fish's attitude toward professional
women
who were serious about their work was always a very encouraging one; he
simply disposed of prejudice against professional women as stupid."
Mrs. Alb-
jerg felt that Professor Fish's attitude about women was also shared by Pro-
fessor Michael Rostovzeff, the famous scholar in ancient history.1"
Though the women contacted12 did not experience prejudice while they
were going to school, many of them felt that their parents and friends would
have been more pleased had they married. Despite new economic and social
conditions, marriage continued to be the prized goal of the great majority
of
women. But women scholars did not fit into the traditional mold, and most
women who had plans for research and teaching did not marry. In a 1929
study of more than 1,025 women who had taken the Ph.D. since 1877, the
investigators found that over 75 percent were single.13 Most of the women
who took their Ph.D.'s at Wisconsin before 1926 did not marry. Many of
them did not decide to obtain the Ph.D. until after they had taught a few
years. One Wisconsin Ph.D. remarked that she and others like her were
serious students; they were not in college to find a husband. The choice
for
many of the women scholars seemed to be whether they wanted to be career
women or wives and mothers. While men could separate the values of family
life and individual achievement, the values were conflicting for most women.
The attitude of Dr. Ruth Allen was typical of many of the Wisconsin Ph.D.'s.
She never married, but she was not opposed to marriage, or to men. She felt
that the problem of marriage and a career could be difficult to work out.'4
What made these women decide to obtain a Ph.D.? One reason was that
they were so engrossed in their work that they could not do anything else.15
Dr. Hally Holivette Sax, a woman who did most of her doctoral work at
Wisconsin, wrote that in her junior year she "realized that she wanted
more
than a college education. She remembered that after graduating from college,
on the train going home, her brother asked her why she looked so sad."
She
replied, "I have graduated and I know so little."' 6 Another Ph.D.
felt her goals
of freedom and independence could be brought nearer if she earned the doc-
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