By Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz
Alma Mater: layout and adventure within the Women's schools from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the Thirties ASIN: 0870238698
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Additional info for Alma mater: design and experience in the women's colleges from their nineteenth-century beginnings to the 1930s
The most important element is that the colleges were conscious of each other. As the institutions evolved, each knew what the other was doing and sought to imitate, adapt, or move in a new direction. They drew on each other's alumnae for faculty and administrators. When a question of policy arose, presidents and deans consulted each other. The relationship between the seven, although more competitive than cordial in the years before the Seven College Conference, was nonetheless genuine. Other women's colleges, such as Pembroke, Wheaton, and Goucherequally worthy of study by the historianappeared occasionally in correspondence or in a periodical's list of the important women's colleges.
Yet more than education is at stake. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, women gathered in separate organizations that gave them a power base for social, economic, and political action. Women's clubs, women's professional organizations, reform groups, settlement houses, and women's colleges coexisted. These were not inward-looking bodies designed to satisfy individual women's private needs. These were groups that looked out to the society of women and men. To some degree they created and sustained a Page xix dynamic agenda that linked women's enfranchisement to social justice and peace.
It is in this spirit that many women's colleges have struggled to diversify their student bodies and to reshape curriculum and programs in the light of new knowledge and sensitivities. The success of these efforts has brought the conflicts of the broader society onto campus. In women's colleges discord may feel more intense than in coeducational ones because of the expectation that women are more cooperative and peaceable than men and because of inflated rhetoric about women's community. Alma Mater is offered again as a splash of realism.