“A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labor exploitation and disease, and given them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential” –Audrey Hepburn
Merriam-Webster defines education as “The field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in schools” (Education, n.d.). Throughout history, our society has seen many struggles and I’m sure there are more to come. One of the struggles that is often discussed, but sometimes overlooked is the fight for women to receive higher education. The struggle for women to receive higher education was like any other struggle, it came with opposition and setbacks, but the end result was felt through future generations. Women during this century were focused on their end result as being able to obtained higher education. Little did they know how far this victory would reach future generations and the impact it would have on other women.
During the Pre-Civil war era, it was counted a luxury or privilege if a woman received any form of education. As time progress, women begin to fight for their right to be treated as equal and receive the same rights as men. The women’s suffrage movement worked to bring equal rights to women on various matters from the workforce to education. Some viewed the purpose of women’s colleges for some women to be trained for jobs as teachers, but also to domestic them for servants and industrial workers (Dubois, 2012). With the suffrage movement, women were slowly brought to the forefront in the workforce as well as in education. Education became a key initiative for some and a blessing to others.
Even though women were being admitted to most universities, challenges or oppositions still existed. Southern black institutions during the decline in race relations had an impact on higher education for African Americans (Dubois, 2012). Not only were schools dealing with separation, but segregation plagued most schools even after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education around 1955 (Dubois, 2012). In addition, several colleges only provided a less demanding program of study than baccalaureate studies (Dubois, 2012). Women seemed to be forced to only study what was available to them at the time and at the school that they were only allowed to attended. As time progressed, these challenges and/or oppositions begin to minimize and more and more women were permitted to attend various universities.
Thinking back on the achievements of women being able to receive higher education, the opportunities are endless. For me, making a decision to return to school was a way for me to prove to myself that I could do it. Obtaining a degree would give me the opportunity to tap into jobs that would have never been possible without a degree. Working while attending school has given me a different perspective on my career. Throughout the various courses taken, it has definitely helped me in my current role as a team leader. In this role, I had to understand how to communicate better, especially when there is conflict. I’ve also learned to be mindful of ways to develop leadership and management skills to try to find ways in which my job could be done better.
I remember growing up and my mother wanted me and my sister to become teachers. That seemed to have been the norm for women around my mother’s age at the time. My sister entered into that field and has been wonderful to her students, fellow teachers, and parents. However, I wanted something more than just being a teacher and I could imagine how the women attending a university for the first time felt. For years they were told to pursue the education field, domestic servants, and industrial workers (Dubois, 2012). Because of their determination to not settle, they have given women around the world an opportunity to study in whatever field we choose.
Co-education was another item they had to deal with. Women were taught in the same building, but not in the same classroom as men. They were taught the same subject matter, but not with the same intensity. I’ve always attended school with boys in my class, but we were all taught the same curriculum. Thinking back on a few classes I’ve taken, there were some subjects that had a little to no men in the class. It could have been because it was more of a female interest than a male, but looking back on it, I could identify with what women had to endure.
Education is something that can sometimes be taken for granted, misused/abused, and even squandered. I’ve always been taught that with education comes knowledge and knowledge is powerful. During the 19th and 20th century, women were fighting for their rights and their education. If people truly grasped the concept of what those women went through to obtain their right to education, I wonder if we would continue to squander our rights to achieve high education or would we take full advantage of this opportunity they fought so long and hard for.
Dubois, E. C. & Dumenil, L. (2012). Through Women’s Eyes:An American History with Documents (Third edition). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.
Education. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/education
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