chapter  3
16 Pages

We’ve Been Here Before

Gendered Realignments Behind the Ivy
WithNancy S. Niemi

As the long-standing meeting site of aspirational community and equality, schooling has served as a particle-acceleration chamber for the economy, politics, law, and culture as they collide with entrenched beliefs about gender. Women's recent academic successes challenge the ways in which masculinity and capitalism have been bound historically to the structure of schooling. Necessary to understanding the current realignments of gender and power in higher education is an examination of women's past interactions with American higher education. Early patterns of advance and retreat reveal ways in which groups with little or no power, in this case women from multiple social classes and racial and ethnic groups, used the knowledge and credentials associated with formal education to try to gain economic, social, and political advantage. Cultural understandings of virtue and propriety for women have been traditionally defined in terms of home and family; women have merited their place in the social order by adhering to these roles.