We’ve Come a Long Way…Or Have We?

In a thought that is somehow simultaneously impressive and mind-boggling, women in the United States have had the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote for nearly 100 years. Impressive because a hundred years is a big deal. Yet, just 100 years for equality of enfranchisement is pretty abysmal. To put it into perspective, both the telephone and the lightbulb, two inventions that literally harnessed electricity and sound waves, were patented approximately 40 years before women had the right to cast a ballot in every state.

But let’s go back a little, back before women earned the right to vote. It wasn’t an easy fight. For over 50 years suffragists had petitioned their government for the right to vote, some even being thrown in prisons labeled “work houses” and force fed when they staged a hunger strike as a form of political protest. (If you haven’t seen the movie Iron Jawed Angels, here’s where I’d strongly recommend it.) These women were strong, but they were facing uphill battles at every turn, including propaganda pieces like this from 1911:

SuffragePamphlet

Pay special attention to the rationale, second to the bottom: the avoidance of petticoat rule. The arugment was that women having the right to vote would emasculate the government so much that it would make it effeminate, or just plain ineffective.

So flash forward with me again to today, 2014. Surely we’ve progressed beyond that.

And yet…

Chatham University is at a crossroads. It can either maintain the women’s college that has existed successfully for 145 years (and the women’s college education that has proven success at creating strong, world-ready women – http://www.chatham.edu/admission/undergraduate/benefits.cfm), or it can actively decide to make the undergraduate college fully co-educational. In an ironic twist, some of the arguments made for co-education sound eerily similar to the ones from the anti-suffrage pamphlet. If a propaganda piece were created for the co-educational vote, perhaps it would look something like this:

EBCornerPamphlet

The arguments don’t hold up much better than the originals, do they?

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3 responses to “We’ve Come a Long Way…Or Have We?”

  1. Sanity says :

    This is literally insane. You’re calling for male discrimination by saying 100 years ago female discrimination was prevalent. If you look at studies done on the wage gap, only approximately 10-15% of it is attributed to “unknown factors” (discrimination), meaning if women earn 20% less on average, that’s only 2-3% by discrimination. While I agree that’s certainly not a good thing that any discrimination gap is present, the number is going down every year.

    Moreover, none of the arguments about making Chatham coed are even slightly related to the sexist ones from the 1900s pamphlet, in fact it seems Chatham is trying to make a move towards gender equality! There is virtually 0 correlation between the two.

    In addition, the economic benefit the school would gain from male tuition would be helpful in the long haul. While I’m sorry that you would lose the atmosphere of the women’s college you love, this is a step forward in liberal equality for a college. Stop trying to make it seem like a backwards one.

  2. savechatham says :

    Dear Sanity,

    We are not calling for male discrimination, but we are asking for the preservation of the College for Women.

    Regardless of the reasons for women making less than men in the workplace, the fact still remains that women DO make less. And women are represented less in power positions both in government and business, as the blog points out.

    The points in the EB’s Corner pamphlet were not intended to be a direct correlation to the ones from the suffrage pamplet. They were more intended to point out that the arguments being made now are no more a cause to go foward with this decision than the ones in 1911 were logical in their call to deny women’s suffrage.

    We believe that this IS a backwards step for our beloved alma mater. This proposal would turn 145 years of history on its head for reasons that are not fully explained by the administration. All we have ever asked for is a delay of the vote so that all alumnae have an opportunity to fully understand the rationale behind the proposal. We don’t believe that going co-ed is the only solution, but the administration clearly has not done its due diligence in proving that to us.

    Thanks for reading our blog!

  3. sandykmiquon says :

    As I have spent time on this issue, I’ve discovered resources publicly available on the internet that have helped to better educate me. As I read, I become more convinced of the need to delay the vote to disband Chatham College for Women and become a coeducational undergraduate facility. There are tools available which may enable the Trustees to agree to continue our 145 year tradition.
    1. Catalyst is a non-profit organization working to advance women. Check out their website and see “The Ripple Effect: What’s Good for Women is Good for the World”. (New York: Catalyst, March 3, 2014) for global statistics regarding “the importance of educated women to benefit families, communities, workplaces, economies, and societies at large”. Deborah Gillis, the President and CEO of Catalyst wrote it is “essential for women to be as educated, as capable of earning money, and as in control of their physical lives as men – not just because it’s fair, but because empowering women raises everybody’s standard of living”.
    2. The Womens College Coalition includes Chatham. Their website includes a 100+ slide power point presentation to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling 2012 meeting in Denver entitled “How to Get Your Girls to Consider Women’s Colleges: Connecting the Dots to Find the Right Fit”. It was presented by women from the Coalition, Bryn Mawr, and St. Mary’s College (IN). I believe the authors successfully made their argument and presented a road map to convince prospective women students “it is all about her”.
    The Womens College Coalition website also includes a 1997 foot-noted article presented by ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) of the US Department of Education titled “Women’s Colleges in the United States: History, Issues, and Challenges”. Its 3 authors identified issues that warranted further investigation and frequently appeared as they conducted their research . The issues included:
    – “What happened to women’s colleges that closed or became
    coeducational?…
    – What can other institutions learn from those women’s colleges that have
    survived, in terms of such issues as marketing, enrollment management, and
    program development?”
    I recommend ALL of Chatham’s constituents – its Board of Trustees, Administration, Alumnae, Faculty and Staff, and Students continue to educate themselves regarding this important topic BEFORE any irrevocable decision is reached. After all, we cannot “unring” the Chapel Bells.
    Sandy Kuritzky, ’73

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