Margaret Nash's groundbreaking Women's Education in the United States, 1780-1840 examines education from the early national period through the formation of the institutions that are widely recognized as the forerunners of the women's college movement. Nash argues that in this period education was not as strongly gendered as other historians have posited. The rising rhetoric of human rights, Enlightenment thought, and evangelical Christianity, in an age of dynamic economic change, helped build a broad ideological base for the spread of female education. Education was key to the project of class formation, and Nash contends that class and race were more salient than gender in the construction of educational institutions. Women's Education in the United States, 1780-1840 is an essential text for all courses in the field of education and will change the way we all think about the history of higher learning.
insightful introduction to antebellum women's seminaries
By hmf22 - April 26, 2009
This is a great little book, its 116 pages packed with intriguing detail. Nash seeks to understand the women's seminaries of the early republic and antebellum era on their own terms, not as precursors to the women's colleges of the late 19th century. She argues persuasively that women's seminaries, although they did not bill themselves as "colleges," offered a broad liberal arts education that was not only as rigorous as that offered by men's academies and colleges but also remarkably similar in content. Nash further argues that educators justified women's secondary schooling not only on the grounds that it would prepare them for wifehood and motherhood, but also on the grounds that it would promote intellectual and spiritual self-development and, potentially, prepare women to support themselves. The expansion of women's secondary education coincided with a movement to professionalize teaching, and women soon became prominent in this formerly male-dominated profession... read more
An academic work, yet fascinating for the lay reader.
By Critical Rationalist - May 31, 2006
This book ought to be in bookstores. A study such as this one, focused as it on the specific issue of women's education during a specific historical era, provides an excellent insight into what it must have been like to be living in American society at that time.
The book goes into fascinating detail regarding who's who and how certain powerful and not-so-powerful women influenced women's education and thus American attitudes in the post-Civil War, industrial-growth era. For me as a non-educator (I run a small business), the notes don't get in the way at all, and in fact I found myself interested enough to look up many of the additional comments in the notes.
Nicely done. Highly recommended.
Novel new scholarship, but includes only upper-middle class white women
By Ioana Stoica "Ioana Stoica" - January 16, 2009
This work is a fairly comprehensive treatment of educational institutions in the US in the early national and antebellum period. Nash argues that during this period, opportunities for (white, middle-upper class women) increased dramatically, but that this increase did not correlate to improved opportunities for women in other arenas (i.e., political, economic power).
Support for women's education came from many angles: the Lockians of the Enlightenment believed women's minds were tabula rasa, as men's, and that they had as much potential; evangelicals called to educated women to moralize communities, to promote true Christian charity (esp. through educating the young--not coincidentally, feminization of education occurred during this period in the North); republican ideals further called on women to be educated, as did social utility arguments (i.e., women's skills could help their husbands in business, educate sons, etc).
Nash describes the rise of pedagogical... read more