Theses Doctoral

The Politics and Culture of Gender in British Universities, 1860–1935

Rutherford, Emily Margaret

This dissertation argues for the central role that higher education played in the making and remaking of gender difference as a fundamental organizing category of British politics and society. From the mid-nineteenth century, major legal, political, and economic shifts newly provided some—mostly elite—women with access to citizenship and the labor market. Nevertheless, gender segregation and gender difference remained essential to conceptions of women's participation in British politics and society. Across the same period, the number of universities in Britain doubled and national student intake more than tripled. Higher education became increasingly centralized and state-funded, and a degree increasingly became a professional qualification for both men and women. My dissertation examines the relationships between these changes and assesses their significance, moving beyond progressive accounts of women's formal admission to degrees. Drawing on extensive research in the archives of ten universities across England and Scotland, I show that gender was at the heart of faculty's, students', administrators', politicians', and donors' conceptions of what higher education was for, who should have access to it, and the extent to which universities should be funded by national government. Though expert opinion across Britain coalesced rapidly around the support of large coeducational research universities, this did little to alter gender difference as the fundamental organizing principle of university life. Campus relations between men and women remained conflicted, and the professional, social, and emotional lives of faculty and students remained largely gender-segregated—contributing to the lasting significance of gender difference for British politics and culture. I demonstrate these claims across three main sections of the dissertation, which cover how gender structured, respectively: the political and legal transformation of higher education, the culture of student life, and the relationship between faculty's careers and personal lives.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Pedersen, Susan G.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 1, 2020