Higher education was designed for men in colonial America. Since the 1800s women’s positions and opportunities in the educational sphere have increased. In 1982, women surpassed men in number of bachelor’s degrees conferred in education and social change rury pdf United States, and more bachelor’s degrees have been conferred on women each year since.
In Colonial America elementary education was widespread in New England, but limited elsewhere. New England Puritans believed it was necessary to study the Bible, so boys and girls were taught to read at an early age. It was also required that each town pay for a primary school. About 10 percent enjoyed secondary schooling.
Tax-supported schooling for girls began as early as 1767 in New England. It was optional and some towns proved reluctant. Northampton, Massachusetts, for example, was a late adopter because it had many rich families who dominated the political and social structures and they did not want to pay taxes to aid poor families. Northampton assessed taxes on all households, rather than only on those with children, and used the funds to support a grammar school to prepare boys for college.
Historians point out that reading and writing were different skills in the colonial era. School taught both, but in places without schools reading was mainly taught to boys and also a few privileged girls. Men handled worldly affairs and needed to read and write. This educational disparity between reading and writing explains why the colonial women often could read, but could not write and could not sign their names—they used an “X”. Across the South, there was very little public schooling. Most parents either home schooled their children using peripatetic tutors or sent them to small local private schools.
A study of women’s signatures in Georgia indicates a high degree of literacy in areas with schools. Coinciding with the beginnings of the first wave of feminism in the 20th century came the attempt by women to gain equal rights to education in the United States. Home economics and industrial education were new elements of the high school curriculum designed for unmistakably women’s occupations. The 1930s also saw tremendous changes in women’s education at the college level. 1940, there were 600,953 female college students and 77,000 earned bachelor’s degrees.
Because the proper role for a white, middle class woman in 1930s American society was that of wife and mother, arguments in favor of women’s education emphasized concepts of eugenics and citizenship. Education showed women how to exercise their civic responsibilities, and it showed them the importance of the vote. The basic assumption in the 1930s was that women should marry. In addition, the 1930s marked great economic hardship in the United States with the start of the Great Depression.