Published Date

November 9, 1970

From Report of the American Historical Association Committee on the Status of Women (1970)

The proportion of women receiving doctorates in all fields has never been high, but it has been lower in the 1950’s and 1960’s than it was in 1920, 1930, or 1940. Most recent figures show about eleven percent of doctorates going to women, down from the earlier high of sixteen percent in the twenties and thirties. The percents in history run a little higher than the overall figures. During the last ten years the ten leading graduate departments of history (based on the 1966 American Council on Education evaluation) have been granting about fifteen percent of their Ph.D.’s to women. The proportion of women receiving M.A.’s in history from these universities is nearly double those receiving Ph.D.’s.

Although women receive Ph.D.’s in history from leading graduate departments, they are not appointed to these faculties in significant numbers. (See Appendix A) These departments employed between 98 and 99 percent men on their faculties, the women serving primarily in the lower ranks. Five of these leading departments appointed no woman to any of the three professorial ranks. In the first three of these years none of the departments had a woman full professor, and only three of the ten departments had a woman full professor at any time during this period. Women constitute about ten percent of the history department members of ten excellent coeducational liberal arts colleges. For the graduate departments the figure is less than two percent. Most startling, however, is the progressive deterioration in the status of women in the departments of coeducational colleges. In 1959-60 sixteen percent of the full professors were women, but in 1968-69 only one woman full professor remained, and she retired the following year. The decline is undoubtedly largely attributable to the retirement of the generation of women historians trained in the twenties and thirties combined with the tendency to hire men in the post-war years. A decline is also noticeable in the proportion of women associate professors; only among the assistant professors is any increase perceptible. Seven of the ten women’s colleges surveyed follow the pattern customarily associated with them of having had a high proportion of women in their history faculties during the first half of the century followed by a decline in the last decade.

One factor militating against the advancement of women Ph.D.’s is the widely-held assumption that women prefer to marry and devote themselves to domestic life. This assumption is belied by the evidence offered by Helen S. Astin in The Woman Doctorate in America. She shows that 91 percent of the women receiving doctorates in all fields in the mid-fifties were employed in some type of work seven years later. Moreover, married women Ph.D.’s who are employed full-time show a higher publication rate than either unmarried women Ph.D.’s or men Ph.D.’s, according to the studies of Rita Simon, Shirley Merritt Clark, and Kathleen Galway. The discrepancy between women’s professional status and performance is thus not grounded in any lack of commitment to the life of learning. Lawrence Simpson’s ingenious investigations have thrown new light on the problem. He has shown that those who practice discrimination against women in academic employment also hold general views concerning female inferiority. Prejudiced attitudes are strongest among men who have been in teaching and/or administration for a period of from five to twenty years. This age group may be assumed to constitute the majority of decision maker: in almost any department. The least prejudiced attitudes toward women are found in those under 30 and over 60 years of age. In history as in other academic areas, our sample of thirty institutions indicates women are employed primarily in non-tenured ranks. Moreover, far from abandoning their professions for pure domesticity, their very eagerness to work has made women vulnerable to exploitation. Their readiness—and sometimes their need—to accept irregular and part-time positions has led to their exclusion from participation in the main stream of academic rewards and preferment. Opening regular career lines to partially employed women emerges from our findings as an urgent need. Faculties and students stand to benefit no less than women whose services are presently not adequately utilized and recognized. (See Resolutions, III, 4 (b).)

Finally, the Association should take note of the fact that it has no better record than the colleges and universities we have surveyed in engaging the participation of women in its central activities. (See Resolutions, III, 3, and Appendix C.)

Next section: Appendix A