But now there’s no excuse: This fall, in celebration of its sesquicentennial, Vassar College is offering a free lecture series titled “Liberations and Contradictions: Moments in the History of Gender and Education,” which is part of a course on the rise of women’s higher education. The series will examine some key chapters in American history through the lens of women’s education, which promises to fill gaps in just about everyone’s education.
The lectures are held weekly on Thursdays from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. in Taylor Hall, Room 203, through December 8 (there will be no lectures on October 13 and 20 or November 24). They’ll also be webcast live, greatly expanding their accessibility. The eight lectures (one is already past) presented by Vassar faculty will be complemented by a panel of scholars on November 17 examining the contributions of three progressives who graduated from Vassar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The program winds up with a dramatic reading of related texts by Vassar students on December 8.
The remaining lectures span the period from the Enlightenment to the Cold War, addressing notions about women’s education that helped shape and eventually transformed traditional female roles. James Merrell’s lecture on September 15 will examine the role played by women during the American Revolution: a forgotten history. The talk by Rebecca Edwards and Ronald Patkus on September 22 will explore how the codes of respectable female behavior in the 19th century that emerged out of the tumult of the Industrial Revolution were contested, resulting in the ideal alternative roles of “martial manhood” and “public womanhood.” Edwards will explore how the religious revival in that century both hampered and encouraged the emancipation of women on September 29, followed by a lecture on October 6 examining the impact that abolition and other antebellum reforms had on gender relations; the talk will provide a historical explanation suggesting why some female politicians, such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman, tend to be more politically extreme than male party leaders.
On October 27, Edwards will discuss experiments in women’s higher education (of which the founding of the elite institution of Vassar, designed to be the female equivalent of Harvard, was in the forefront). On November 3 the professor will talk about how women’s emancipation was tied to the Civil War, followed by Quincy Mills’s lecture on November 10 about the emergence of higher education for black women during Reconstruction. On December 1, Robert Brigham will trace the role of elite educational institutions during McCarthyism, the Cold War and the Vietnam War.
To supplement the lectures, some of the professors are recommending that participants read recommended texts, in PDF form. For more information on the talks and these sources, visit http://150.vassar.edu/events/campus/ws285/index.html. The webcast can be accessed by clicking on http://bit.ly/totalwebcast_vclectureseries.