Abstract

It is difficult for college students today to imagine life when the term "discrimination" had not yet been defined or conceived. Yet only a little more than a hundred years ago women were first entering the academic world alongside men. These were often middle class women whose primary interactions with men had been through courtship and marriage. It was questioned whether women's intellectual ability and physical stamina were strong enough to persevere through the college experience. Scientists and physicians, writing for the general public, cited evidence that besides physical distinctions between the sexes, there were also intellectual and emotional differences. For this reason women were guarded especially closely at college and often were housed in private homes in town. In such an atmosphere, collegiate women in the decades before and after the turn of the century could not possibly be immune from the effects of society's conceptions of gender differences. But exactly how would their effects be manifested? Women's choices of curricula exhibit their perception of themselves. Specifically, throughout the period between coeducation's acceptance and the second world war, women's decisions to major in science were contingent on women's intentions for their post-collegiate use of the degrees, encouragement or discouragement, and the prestige science as a field of study held in the general public and workplace.

Disciplines

Chemistry | History

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