DPC 193/WST 170S/EDU 150


One thing that Nan Keohane's presidency says is that where there once were bars between women and higher education, there is now a door--and it's open. But, according to Jean O'Barr, that door could open much further. She says, "The current state of women's access to higher education at Duke and nationally varies by field: more women in humanities and social sciences than in natural sciences, more women in family medicine than neurosurgery, more as faculty than chairs or deans or presidents."

This fall, in her triple cross-listed "Gender, Politics, and Higher Education," O'Barr wants her students to stop and take a look at their surroundings, to "analyze the institution they're a part of, which isn't something Duke students normally do in class." For the first time since she's offered it, she's going to take a historical approach, looking back at women's demands for access, at gender dynamics, and the formation of disciplines over the years. Just exactly how far have women come in terms of higher education? And how far is left to go?

The class, mostly if not entirely female, looks at the lives of pioneering figures-- Duke's Giles sisters, the first of the school's women to earn bachelor's degrees when Duke was Trinity College, and Alice Baldwin, the first dean of the Woman's College--as well as the efforts of institutions like Oberlin College, the Seven Sisters schools, and Troy Institute. Class format varies by week with lectures, student presentations, discussions, and, most notably, interviews with participants in the conference "The Woman's College, 1930-1972: A Legacy of Excellence and Leadership," being held in November.


Unequal Colleagues: The Entrance of Women into the Professions, 1890-1940, by Penina Glazer and Miriam Slater (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987). Out of print

Gender and Higher Education in the Progressive Era, by Lynn D. Gordon (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990). Also out of print

Disciplining Feminism: From Social Activism to Academic Discourse, by Ellen Messer-Davidow (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002)

Short articles to be distributed in class


Regular class participation

Three short papers

Attending the Woman's College conference, November 8-10

One final paper


Jean O'Barr (Ph.D. political science, Northwestern University) is the founding director of Women's Studies at Duke. She is a University Distinguished Service Professor and directs the "Forging Social Ideals" FOCUS program. She has written and co-authored several books and articles on women in higher education, most notably Feminism in Action: Building Community and Institutions through Women's Studies. An administrator in higher education for thirty-two years, O'Barr has been a Duke professor since 1969.

Share your comments

Have an account?

Sign in to comment

No Account?

Email the editor