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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 3


torate.17 The chief reason most of these women went on for a Ph.D. was that
their teachers encouraged them to do so. Many of them received financial
help as well.
There was no one reason Wisconsin women Ph.D.'s chose Wisconsin over
some other university. Many of them came because they had friends already
here; others wished to study under a particular professor at Wisconsin; some
picked Wisconsin for geographical reasons; and a few chose Wisconsin be-
cause they believed more opportunities were available at the university.
Many of these women who received their Ph.D.'s from Wisconsin came
from well-established, esteemed families. For the most part, their families
en-
couraged their educational ambitions.18
Most of these Wisconsin women Ph.D.'s were not politically active. They
were interested in the women's reform movements, but not enough to cause
them to take an active part in it. To one, "the movement did not seem
to be
especially interesting or important," yet she felt there was no reason
why
women should not participate in the suffrage movement if they wanted to do
so.19 Several women Ph.D.'s knew ardent suffragists yet they were not en-
couraged to take an active part in the movement themselves. Most of the
women, quiet and mature scholars intent on their research, were simply too
busy with their graduate work to take notice of the suffragists.
A major reason for the acceptance of women in graduate school was that
the majority of them were interested in teaching careers. "Next to that
of
mother the greatest career for a woman was to be a teacher."20 In graduate
school women might not become scholars, but it was essential that teachers,
especially college teachers, should have the scholarly spirit. Graduate school
was the only place that women could receive the proper academic training
for
their chosen vocation. The university encouraged teachers to attend summer
sessions and professors such as William H. Rosentengl, Frederick Jackson
Turner and Charles Haskins emphasized advanced training for women to
enter teaching careers.21 A study done in 1905 by the Association of Ameri-
can Universities confirmed the general impression that the number of gradu-
ate women increased in direct ratio with the relevance of the instruction
for
immediate application in secondary teaching.22 In 1906 the number of women
attending the graduate school in the summer was ten percent higher than the
proportion in the fall, indicating that women teachers took advantage of
the
summer session to continue their graduate work.23 In 1910 Director Comstock
asserted that the "graduate school is largely a professional college
for the
teacher that is to be and as such stands in immediate relation to the future
of
education in America."24
Though few of the women contacted who received their Ph.D.'s from
Wisconsin felt any discrimination in graduate school, most felt some in the
occupational opportunities offered them after graduation. Increased educa-
tional opportunity enabled women to acquire the intellectual skills for better
jobs in a wider range, but with the exception of teaching, most were unable
to
use their advanced training. Faculty members encouraged many bright women
to study for degrees, but after a great deal of hard work most of these women
were unable to obtain suitable positions.
The experience of Martha Letitia Edwards who received her Ph.D. from
Wisconsin in 1916 was representative of the frustrations encountered when
a
female Ph.D. went to seek a job. Edwards' colleagues described her as having
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