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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 4


a brilliant mind.25 She wrote her doctoral dissertation under the direction
of
Dr. Carl Russell Fish in history. Fish used part of Edwards' work in his
book,
The Rise of the Common Man.
Dr. Edwards hoped to obtain a position in the University of Wisconsin
history department, but Fish had not pressed her cause because of the
hostility of the other members of the department. She wrote to Fish: "With
your almost femininely deep perception I am sure you felt that the unfailing
kindness shown me by other members of the department was bestowed more
as an act of grace and by way of easy toleration than in real recognition
of my
personal and intellectual qualifications."26
Edwards' next choice was a chair in American history at Washington
University, but she had as much expectation of receiving the job as obtaining
a "seat on Mount Olympus."27 If all else failed, Edwards felt she
would try to
obtain a position at Sophie Newcomb College in Louisiana. Acting in her be-
half, Fish wrote to Milton J. White, head of the Sophie Newcomb history de-
partment. "Anyway," he went on to say, "the authorities prefer
male to
female professors. The last is strictly confidential."28 In 1917 Edwards
finally
secured a teaching position at Lake Erie College for Women in Painesville,
Ohio. After teaching at Lake Erie College six years she obtained a position
at
the Extension Division of the University of Wisconsin where she worked until
her death in 1926.29
Another Wisconsin Ph.D., Florence Porter Robinson, also experienced
discrimination. While she was attending the University of Chicago, Robinson
and a friend of hers had been "sufficiently impressed by the number
and
quality of the graduate women to contrast them with the very scanty oppor-
tunity for [their] professional placement and advancement.'"30 Robinson
had
taught high school Latin for a few years after her graduation from the univer-
sity in 1889. In 1891 she studied at the Harvard Annex, and then came back
to the University of Wisconsin to obtain her master's degree in history.31
She
studied under Frederick Jackson Turner and obtained her degree in 1892.
After receiving her M.A. she was still unable to find any university or college
position where she could teach history. She became convinced that her in-
ability to find a university job resulted from the fact that she was a woman.
Her assumption was probably correct. At the same time she was searching for
a position, many men with similar or inferior backgrounds had obtained jobs
at Wisconsin.32 After further attempts to obtain a university position failed,
Robinson decided to change her career plans and become a home economics
teacher. In 1918 she accepted a job as head of home economics at Beloit Col-
lege. In 1921 President Brannon of Beloit wrote her a letter complimenting
her on her work. He was "very greatly pleased with the development of
ed-
ucational plans for women at Beloit during the last three years. I have ap-
preciated more than I can tell you the wisdom, patience, and balance which
you have manifested in our rather slow progress.' 3 Robinson replied that
she
had been upset to find herself outranked by others, especially by those who
were not department heads. She felt that, at least in the case of those who
were not department heads, seniority should have counted as a factor. She
"could only conclude that the trouble was with myself or my sex, either
solu-
tion being disheartening because irremediable.... Your very kind letter en-
courages me to hope that I am not wholly failing the college in scholarship
or
usefulness and to believe that Beloit is not a college which permits a biologi-
4


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