In 1921 a woman’s education was reserved for the upper class or upper middle class, as demonstrated in a Ladies Home Journal article in October of 1921. Access to education for women and particularly for working women, let alone higher education, was minimal. The journal did an article on a program that took women from industrial jobs and put them in summer college courses. The courses allowed readers to see how critical education was in the progress of not only women’s personal lives, but their professional and working lives.
The college courses were made up of women working in industrial jobs in the 1920’s. The course content focused on labor and industry as a way to both enlighten and uplift their careers back home. The courses taught them unionization techniques, industry rules and regulations, economics, life skills, and political history. These specialized courses offered them an understanding about the world they lived in, and in some cases opened their eyes to the conditions in which they worked under. Although the courses were designed to create an education that would be useful for women once they returned home, music education, art, and literature were offered as well. At the time, some of the women in the cohort were facing deplorable working conditions which they were made aware of through the courses offered. The courses then helped them use their voice to fight for their rights and the rights of others. After all you cannot fight for something if you do not see the issues you are subjected to.
These women craved to absorb any information they could, studying into the late hours of each night, learning more and more to pass on for those who did not have the fortune to come to the program. They even went above and beyond the original expectations for willingness and participation. In one case, a professor with the participating university said:
There are many different types among these students as there are among ordinary college girls. I find that they have far more eagerness than college students, more curiosity, and they take nothing for granted. (Ladies Home Journal, p. 73).
The lack of education due to their sacrifices for family, wages, shelter, and basic needs didn’t diminish the desire to learn and find their way out of poverty through education. Many women attended night school to gain access to education, which was the only option for many women during this time period. However, working women were often too exhausted from working all day to excel taking night classes.
Articles like these are important when looking at women’s history simply because they show women’s tenacity and their eagerness for education. The pathway to college for women has been a long one and frankly the road is still being constructed as women are still making breakthroughs in fields once thought to be strictly male spaces. Education for these women meant significant life changes. With an education they could earn better wages, have better working conditions, and achieve higher goals, all of which girls and women today still are hoping to achieve in the United States. These women show change can be made through education and opportunity, and they also show how far we have come but still have to go when looking at education for girls not only in our own country but the world.
Warren, Maude R. “A Great Experiment .” The Ladies Home Journal, XXXVIII, no. 10, Oct. 1921, pp. 20, 73-74.
To access the full-text of The Ladies Home Journal issue featured in this blog post, visit HathiTrust.org or contact your local Library.