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Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / They came to learn, they came to teach, they came to stay

Langill, Ellen D.
Chapter 2: Women at Wisconsin: 1909-1939,   pp. 11-30

Page 26

not acceptable even to liberal-minded adults"'106 Later hours came with
economic burdens in the 30s; responsibility and hardship brought more
freedom where the frivolity of the 1920s had been met with suspicion and
sternness by university officials.
Yet, the battle between career and homemaking goals became even more
crucial for campus women during the 1930s when many "heads of house-
hold" qualifications were attached to jobs. Working women were often
cused of stealing an income from a family man. Despite the increasing
superiority of women's academic performance, more graduates thus chose
seemingly secure marriage and fewer looked for career opportunities in the
turbulent decade.107 In 1938, the Cardinal featured a story on this change
life plans: "Women Still Hold Marriage is Chief Career," and observed
operation of the prejudices that worked for families and against single women
in the economic crisis. 108
The desirability of marriage also brought about a more conservative trend
in mores and dating behavior. Single women during the career-minded '20's
had often declared their sexual independence and demanded rights to experi-
ment with Freud's libidinous theories. The Cardinal carried a debate among
campus women over these changes in "acceptable morality." Many
students, in a poll, agreed with the dean that chastity before marriage re-
mained the highest principle. As dean of men, Goodnight warned in the stu-
dent handbook: "college administrative officers consider sexual immorality
heinous offense."109 One woman student spoke for the group that preferred
question the rewards of strict chastity. In a scorching rejoinder to the
poll, she
wrote: "We who are not virgins can smile at the notion that we have
lost our
self-respect. " 1 10
No campus purges resulted from the flow of political liberalism that
marked the 1930s, despite threatened backlashes. However, the bigotry
abroad in the world reared itself at the university when several women's
rooming houses refused to admit Jewish girls. Those offended, and their out-
raged champions, appealed for a campus-wide student boycott of the guilty
housing units. Unfortunately, the WSGA succumbed to the anti-Semitism by
vetoing the boycott and suggesting instead that separate lists be filed of
houses that would, or would not, admit Jewish students.111 In 1930, Meta
Berger, wife of Milwaukee Socialist Victor Berger, brought a proposal to
Board of Regents which stipulated that halls or rooming houses for university
women not be accredited if they discriminated on the basis of race, creed,
nationality. Unfortunately, the proposal was referred to the Executive Com-
mittee, where it died from neglect.112
By 1939, anti-Semitism was a more ominous force than the petty bigotry
of some students at Madison. At the end of the decade the world was slowly
awakening to the implications of organized racism in Hitler's Germany. The
3,269 women enrolled at Wisconsin in 1939 looked eastward with the rest of
the country to Poland in September, when the Nazi invasion spelled the out-
break of another world conflict. Dean Troxell, who had lead the campus
women through the trying times of the Depression, began to anticipate the
new tragedy. In another war women's role would be even more demanding,
she predicted, "Women in our university are strategically situated -
as they
have every opportunity to work, both socially and politically, as they will
expected to do in later years; that is with men doing similar work."'"13

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