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This volume begins a conversation on the issue of gender and education as we approach the 21st century. We did not set out to survey the entire terrain: such a task would require a vast international project. Nevertheless, the questions we raise are significant for educators in societies as culturally diverse as Sweden, China and Great Britain. What did women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century hope for in fighting for women’s access to secondary and tertiary education, in entering the professions? Have we achieved those goals? Why, when we appear to make significant steps forward, do we encounter waves of resistance? And what do we mean by achieving our goals? Does the gaining of a degree in a male-dominated institution mean the same thing for a woman as for a man? Is the term ‘an educated woman’ a contradiction in terms, as Jane Martin provocatively suggests (Martin, 1985, 1991)? Is access a fitting measure of ‘progress’? Does entry to a profession which requires long hours of commitment incompatible with the care of children constitute ‘success’? And, worryingly, are we condemned to a cycle of advance and retreat, of constant justification of our presence of our continuing ‘otherness’. Must we continue to be impertinent, as Kajsa Ohrlander asks?