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(at the University of Chicago)
by Jo Freeman

This research was inspired by a sit-in at the University of Chicago in the winter quarter of 1969 to protest the dismissal of Marlene Dixon at the end of a three year joint appointment as an assistant professor in the Departments of Sociology and Human Development. The students raised consciousness on how few women were on the University faculty. My original focus was to find out how many women had held faculty appointments in Sociology, but there were so few I expanded the research to five social science departments plus history. My findings were presented as a talk at four colloquia held that quarter by different units of the University, and later sold as a pamphlet. In 1970, the pamphlet was put into the record of Hearings before the Special Subcommittee on Education of the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, on Section 805 of H.R. 16098, held in Washington, D.C. in June and July 1970, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971, pp. 994-1003.

When the University of Chicago opened its doors to students in 1892, it became the first major institution of higher education to begin its existence as a coeducational school. It even had women on the faculty. This was considered to be a very progressive policy at the time, daringly progressive. In 1900 only 23 Ph.D.'s were awarded to women in the whole country, out of a total of 383 such degrees. But has the University continued this policy? Or has it stood still while the rest of the country caught up with and surpassed it? In particular, has the position of women on the faculty improved, have they been hired and are they promoted on the same basis as men of comparable ability?
In an attempt to get at the answer to these questions, I spent a week going through all the University catalogs since 1892. I took a simple sex census of the six major departments: Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. The census was done on the basis of first names, and all ambiguous names were checked. The count was restricted to the graduate divisions,* but those women who were in the graduate catalogs although they held appointments in the College were listed separately. Unfortunately, time did not allow the examination of other departments, the careers of women in the College, or the employment patterns of men on the faculty. But the data on women in graduate social science faculties, while they hold absolutely only for those departments, can still give us some insight into the general careers of faculty women at the University.
The employment patterns of women show several striking characteristics, which a perfunctory examination of the catalogs does not show for male faculty.

  1. Few women are hired, and few stay more than the length of one appointment (three years).
  2. The first appointment is usually that of Instructor or Lecturer (a nonfaculty appointment), rather than the typical position of Assistant Professor.
  3. Those who stay generally remain in untenured positions for an abnormally long time.
  4. Those who, become full professors do so by rising through "women's departments" or are brought in from other universities at a tenured position.

Not only do these patterns manifest themselves, but the "normal" university career is not found at all. Not a single woman in the graduate divisions of any of these six departments began her career here as a junior faculty member and rose, in that department, to become a full professor. While not all men follow this pattern either, and many move around quite a bit during their careers, it is safe to say that the number who do move up the academic ladder to full professor at the University of Chicago is considerably greater than zero.


My original investigation was confined to the Sociology Department during the last ten years. I suspected, and hoped to show, that the turnover rate of women was considerably higher than that of men. I could find no such pattern -- primarily because I could not find any women. Marlene Dixon was the first woman to hold a teaching position in the Sociology Department in 19 years. Her closest predecessor, Josephine Williams, was an Assistant Professor in 1950-51. A top Sociology graduate student in the forties, she had been given an Instructorship when she received her Ph.D. in 1947. She held this position for two years before being promoted to Assistant Professor. One year later she is listed in the catalogs as only a Research Associate, and the next year she left.
Her experience illustrates two of the common patterns of these six departments (see Appendix I for the other examples). Some women are appointed to lower positions, but virtually none stay, even as long as Josephine Williams. A woman's first appointment on receipt of the Ph. D. is usually that of Instructor or Lecturer. The first appointment of an overwhelming majority of the men is that of Assistant Professor. Some women prefer Lectureships, because it allows a more flexible teaching schedule. But the same can hardly be said of Instructorships, and it is difficult to believe that most women would not prefer to be Assistant Professors.
Marlene Dixon was only the fifth woman to hold a first appointment as Assistant Professor in the entire history of these departments. Of the other four, two stayed only a year (Florence Richardson, Psychology, 1921-22; and Anna Elonen, Psychology, 1949-50), one had worked elsewhere before coming to Chicago (Hanna Gray, History, 1962-) and the fourth held an Instructorship in the department of Medicine before being given a joint Assistant Professorship in History and Medicine (Ilza Veith, Medical History, 1952-63).
What happens to these women? After years of struggling for their Ph. D., do they get married and retire after their first teaching job? There is no way to trace those who left the University of Chicago, but those who stayed exhibit a pattern of their own. It is exemplified by Edith Abbott. She taught in Sociology from 1914 to 1920. After six years she had still not been promoted to Assistant Professor, so she switched to Social Service Administration. Eventually she became Dean of the School. SSA is one of those departments known as "women's departments." Whether this is because they are highly populated by women, often 100 percent, or because they are the only departments through which women can rise, one can only speculate. The fact is that it is only through these departments that women do rise to tenured positions in this University.
A good example of this phenomenon is Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge. In 1901 she received a joint Ph.D. in the Departments of Political Science and Economics, becoming the first woman to receive that degree from either of these departments. She had already become the first woman to be admitted to the Kentucky Bar and continued her legal education at the UC Law School, where she received her J.D. in 1904. While studying at the Law School, she held the position of Docent (somewhat akin to a Teaching Assistant) in the Department of Political Science. In 1905, the University offered her a faculty appointment. She now held doctorates in three fields, Political Science, Economics, and Law, but was she offered an appointment in any of these? No, Sophonisba Breckinridge became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Household Administration.
She had, nonetheless, a distinguished career. The listings of her publications in the Harper Library Card Catalog occupy 3/4 of an inch. She became a Professor of Social Economy in H.A and from this position was accepted as a guest to teach courses in Political Science -- her original field. She was also, at the time, a Dean of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy and was instrumental in having it incorporated into the University as the School of Social Service Administration in 1920. It was the first professional school of social work to be so affiliated with any University. After H.A. was abolished in the 1920's she became the Samuel Deutsch Professor of Public Welfare Administration in SSA She continued to teach courses for the Department of Political Science but never held an appointment there.
In her own department, H.A., she taught one of the few courses on women ever offered at this University. H.A. 21 was on "The Legal and Economic Position of Women." It was one of several academic courses of specific relevance to women taught in the "women's departments." When women's departments were abolished, courses on women, though they easily could have fit elsewhere, were abolished also. The Legal and Economic Position of Women is a perfectly legitimate course for such departments as sociology. economics, law or political science, but none of their (male) faculty were interested in this subject.
Although both Abbott and Breckinridge became full professors; neither of them was a professor in the six departments studied. However, five women have held full professorships in these -- three in economics, one in history, and one in psychology. They too exhibit a common pattern. Not a single one worked her way up through the ranks in these departments.
Three of them (Hazel Kyrk, Economics, 1914-1924; Margaret Reid, Economics, 1952-1962; and Helen Lois Koch, Psychology, 1947-1961), held joint appointments in Home Economics, another woman's department. Hazel Kyrk's career was similar to that of Abbott and Breckinridge. She began as an Assistant (a non-faculty teaching position below that of Instructor which no longer exists), in the Department of Economics - a position she held in 1914 and 1918. Then she transferred to Home Economics and eventually became a full professor. It was only in 1928 that she was given a joint appointment with her original department, which she held until her retirement in 1954.
Both Koch and Reid were brought in from other schools. They held joint appointments in Home Economics and Psychology or Economics respectively. Reid came from a long career at Iowa and the University of Illinois to be a full professor here. Koch gave up a full professorship in 1929 at the University of Texas for an Associate Professorship here in the Department of Home Economics. She became a full professor in 1942 and in 1947 was given a joint appointment with Psychology. Only after Home Economics was abolished in the mid-fifties did these women hold full appointments.
Dorothy Brady (Economics 1957-59) and Bessie Louise Pierce (History 1930-63) were likewise brought in from the outside. Brady came as a full professor and stayed only two years. Pierce gave up a tenured position at the University of Iowa to work here on a special project writing a multi-volume history of Chicago. Although her first appointment was as Associate Professor, it was a term appointment held without tenure. After four years she was given tenure and after twelve years was promoted to Full Professor. She is now retired but still working on her monumental city history.

  Two partial exceptions to this pattern have occurred in the History Department. Frances Gillespie began as an Associate (one notch above an Assistant but below an Instructor) in 1921. When she retired in 1949 she had been an Associate Professor for 16 years. Ilza Veith was brought into the department in 1952 with a joint appointment in Medicine. She left eleven years later as an Associate Professor. They are the only two women to begin in untenured positions and leave in tenured ones -- and they never held full professorships.
The current faculty contains one potential exception to this rule also in the History Department. Although Hanna Gray did not begin her career at the University of Chicago, her first appointment here was in 1962 in the untenured position of Assistant Professor in the College. Her husband held the same appointment in the graduate divisions but for some reason the nepotism rule was not invoked when the department was reorganized and Hanna Gray became a member of the graduate History Department. Of course, her husband was promoted a year ahead of her, but she is now an Associate Professor and has not yet retired. She may become the first woman to break the invisible barrier.**
A far more common pattern is that of women who enter the six departments at the lower positions and are infrequently promoted. Two discussed earlier, Edith Abbott and Josephine Williams, stayed for some years and then left. Several more simply stayed. This is a particularly popular ploy in the Psychology Department, which has had almost as many women on its faculty as the other five departments put together. Laura Rice was a Research Associate from 1957 to 1961. She was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1962 and still held that position when she left seven years later. Leota Janke left in 1953 after six years as an Instructor, and Jean Mackinzie left in 1966 after four years as a Lecturer. Hedda Bolgar spent seven years as a Lecturer before being made a Research Associate in 1956. She left the next year.
In the History Department, Shirley Farr was an Assistant in 1915, and left as an Instructor in 1933. Frances Ada Knox was also an Assistant, in 1904. She left her final position as Extension Assistant Professor in 1927. Perhaps the moot tragic case of all is that of Mary Gilson. She was hired as an Instructor in the Economics Department in 1931. But unlike Hazel Kyrk, she stayed on in the department. She stayed so long that in 1943 she is listed in the catalog as Assistant Professor Emeritus. After 12 years of service to the Economics Department she retired without ever receiving tenure.
Two departments not yet discussed are Anthropology and Political Science. This is because there is not much to say about them. Anthropology's only distinction is having had the most women as Research Associates, a generally non-faculty, post-doctoral one or two year appointment. They have had nine women Research Associates; also four Teaching Assistants, and two Instructors, each of whom stayed for only one year. Political Science gets two honorable mentions. One is for having had the first woman to teach in any one of these six departments. Elizabeth Wallace taught a course in Latin American Politics in 1892. The second is for having had the fewest. Miss Wallace was the last woman to hold a teaching position in Political Science in the history of the University. The few other women to teach courses in this department have held appointments in other departments or in the College.
A popular place for women is the "temporary" position of Research Associate. Some women stay in it for years. In fact, more women have worked as Research Associates than as faculty members in these six departments. Sociology alone had five women Research Associates in 1960 -- and no women on the faculty. Most leave after a short period of time, but some don't; occasionally one stays so long that she is given tenure. A few, such as Rita James and Evelyn Kitagawa, even teach courses. But they are still Research Associates.
This is one of the places one must look when trying to answer the question, where are the women Ph.D.'s? The problem is not just that there are not enough women available. A fairly constant 20% of all the fellowship holders as listed in the graduate catalogs have been women throughout the history of the university in every one of these departments except Economics. (See Appendix II) and the Economics Department has managed to appoint three women to the position of full professor (more than the other departments combined) despite this handicap.
Although figures on the number of women actually receiving their Ph.D.'s are not available for each department, nationally the number has ranged from a high of 15.4% in 1930 to 8% in 1950. In 1964 it was 10.6% The University of Chicago does better than the national average -- at least for students. In 1967-68 16.7% of the Ph.D.s granted went to women. This is from a student body in which 27.8% of all those enrolled in graduate or professional schools were women, and 25.1% of all graduate and professional degrees went to women. (Figures are from the University Office of Public Information. See Appendix III) If the University of Chicago were serious about hiring women Ph.D.s for faculty positions, it has an abundant pool of its own graduates to draw upon.
It can also recruit faculty women from other schools. Popular academic mythology to the contrary, a larger proportion of women receiving doctorates go into college teaching than men. Thus, when the National Education Association did a study in 1964, 18% of all teaching faculty in four year institutions were women. (The percentage in junior colleges was higher.) However, the traditional pattern of "the higher you go, the fewer women you find," still prevails. While 25% of the untenured faculty were women, they constituted only 12% of the tenured faculty. (See Appendix IV)
Few of these 18% are to be found at the University of Chicago. Although the percentage of women students it graduates with Ph.D.s is higher than the national average, the percentage of women faculty members it hires is not. According to the University Office of Public Information only 75 out of 1,128 members of the faculty this year are women, or 6.6 percent. This is hardly much progress since 1899 when of the 163 people on the faculty, 13 were women -- 8%. This is not to say that the University of Chicago does not employ women Ph.D.s. It just doesn't employ them as faculty members of the major disciplines in the graduate divisions. Women work in the College, the extension division, as Research Associates and in other non-faculty positions.
  The most common bond between the 1899 faculty and the 1969 faculty is that where women are found, the traditional pattern still prevails. Over 50% of the women currently on the faculty hold appointments in the College. An additional 20% are in women's departments (S.S.A., Household Administration, Home Economics, Nursing Education. Education, Library Science), and another 20% are in women's fields in the medical school (pediatrics, anesthesiology, psychiatry, obstetrics, and gynecology). Of the 460 full professors currently on the University faculty, only 11 are women. Six of these are in the school of Social Service Administration. Of the entire faculty, women are 13% of all Instructors, 11.2% of all Assistant Professors, 5.6% of all Associate Professors and only 2.4% of all Professors. Only in the women's departments is the proportion of women in higher positions at all comparable to their proportion on the departmental faculty. One must conclude that the academic disciplines of this university are sexually segregated and that a woman faculty member violates this barrier only at the risk of her career. Although the adequate research has not yet been done, one can also speculate that the decline in the percentage of women on the faculty is historically associated with the decline in the number of women's departments. Academic women have been fired from the one, and not hired in the other.
Why do these patterns prevail -- not only at the University of Chicago, but at all comparable institutions of higher education? There are many social reasons of course, but this is not the place to discuss them. Some answers can be found much closer to home. The obvious answer is that hiring and promotion committees are composed primarily if not entirely of men. While most men on the UC faculty claim not to discriminate against women, at least one Ph.D. dissertation has already been written (by a man) at Pennsylvania State University showing that male faculty members do, in fact, prefer to hire colleagues of their own sex.
Chauvinism is manifested in very subtle ways. For example, several (male) faculty members here have said that they would be happy to hire women if they could just find some "qualified" ones. While "qualified" is never defined, one fears it means something different for a woman than for a man. First of all, there are the sheer numbers of women Ph.D.'s who graduate from this university and from all such institutions. While hardly as numerous as they ought to be, they certainly provide a more abundant pool of female academic talent than could be found in 1899. Are so few of them "qualified"?
Second, the women who taught here, particularly those who stretched the sex barrier, seem to be considerably more qualified than their typical male colleagues. A large number of those few who reach tenured positions have more than one degree, honorary or otherwise. They have J.D.'s, L.L.D.'s, and Litt. D's as well as Ph.D's. A cursory examination of any catalog does not show a similar percentage of men with those distinctions. Some of the male professors do not even have Ph.D.s. For example, Edward Shils entered the Sociology Department in 1940 as an Instructor with only an A.B. Today he is a full professor in that department, and still has only an A.B. Every woman to hold any position on the faculty of these departments, and virtually all Research Associates, have had Ph. D.'s. In perusing the catalogs, one is also struck by the number of women who receive the honorary title "Emeritus" upon retirement. At times there are more female professors Emeritus listed in some departments than female faculty members.
In conversations with (male) faculty members one is given the impression that "qualified" for a woman means only the best in the field. Typical was a conversation I had with Professor Arthur Mann of the History Department. He said the department would be happy to hire more women, but that there were only three good women historians in the country and none of them were available. He may be right in his assessment of the top historians, but he is wrong if he meant that only the best people in any field ever teach at the University of Chicago. There are a few extraordinary people here, and many more ordinary ones. Extraordinary women usually do not face the discrimination common to their sex. There are so few to compare them to that sex becomes irrelevant. Judging the status of women by that of the most successful is not only a sham, but a dangerous one because it perpetuates tokenism and clothes it in a self-righteous mythology. It cannot be said that women are judged equally with men until ordinary women and ordinary men are judged by the same standards. As long as all women are judged by the standards of the extraordinary few, women will continue to believe that they are inferior and the University of Chicago will be able to smugly reassure itself that it has an egalitarian policy.
The patterns of discrimination are very clear. The situation has not changed for the better in the University's 77 year history. Women can get their training in the major departments, but they cannot rise up through the academic ranks in the faculty. They either stay in the lower positions, switch to women's departments, or they leave. Every female full professor to have taught in one of the six social science departments either acquired her status in a woman's department of the University or established a reputation elsewhere before coming here. Every other woman stayed on the bottom, or left.
These are the data, but I wish to add one personal comment. As I plied the catalogs and catalogued the plight of the female faculty, I could not help but feel a serious concern for those women currently in graduate school who, like myself, believed the myth that we would be judged on our capabilities alone and that the opportunities open to us were no different than those open to men. I felt a concern, and I felt an urgency that we should not complacently wait for the men who control the departments to decide how many token women they might allow on their faculties. If we do so, the situation will change no more in the next 77 years than it has in the last 77. We must not rely on the University of Chicago, but on ourselves, and insist that we be given fair treatment. While going through the catalogs my mind continually returned to the early days of civil rights protests when blacks picketed stores where they were not hired carrying signs which read "Don't buy where you can't work." Women can buy at the University of Chicago, they may even be given a fellowship. But once they have their Ph.D., their status changes. Women can buy here, but they cannot work.

*The University is primarily a graduate school of three Divisions plus several Professional Schools. A small College with a separate faculty teaches undergraduates. A faculty appointment in the College is not considered to be as important as one in the graduate divisions.

** Hanna Gray became President of the University of Chicago in 1978 and served until 1993.





Elizabeth Bott: Teaching Assistant, 1948; Instructor, 1949
Mary Woodword: Instructor in Anthropology and Linguistics, 1956

Research Associates, Research Assistants and Teaching Assistants
Florence Hawley: (Research Assistant, 1938); Research Associate, 1939-43
Sara Tucker: Research Associate, 1944-46; Research Associate (Instructor) 1947-48
Julia Sabine: Research Assistant, 1945-46
Calixta Guitero-Holmes: Research Associate, 1961
Alicja Iwanska: Research Associate, 1961-63
Maxine Kleindienst: Research Associate, 1962-63
Alice Rossi: Research Associate, 1962-63
Hildred Geertz: Research Associate, 1964
Mary Shepherdson: Research Associate, 1965-68
Rosalie Hankey: Teaching Assistant, 1947
Muriel Verbitsky Hunt: Teaching Assistant, 1960, 1962
Margaret Hardin: Teaching Assistant, 1966
Phyllis Pease: Teaching Assistant, 1966


Hazel Kyrk: Assistant, 1914, 1918; Assistant Professor, Home Economics, 1925; Associate Professor of Home Economics, 1926-27; Associate Professor of Home Economics and Economics, 1928-41; Professor of Home Economics and Economics, 1942-54
Mary Gilson: Instructor, 1931-32; Assistant Professor in the College, 1933-42; Assistant Professor Emeritus, 1943 -
Christine McGuire: Instructor, 1942-44
Margaret Reid: Professor of Home Economics and Economics, 1952-62 Dorothy Brady: Professor, 1957-59

Mary Jean Bowman: Research Associate (Associate Professor) 1959-67; Research Associate (Professor) 1968-


Shirley Farr: Assistant, 1915-18; Instructor, 1929-33
Frances Gillespie: Associate, 1921; Instructor, 1922-26; Assistant Professor, 1927-31; Associate Professor, 1932-48
Bessie Pierce: Associate Professor, 1930-42; Professor, 1943-53; Professor Emeritus, 1954
Ilza Veith: Lecturer (Dept. of Medicine) 1949-51; Assistant Professor of Medical History, 1952-57; Associate Professor, 1958-63
Hanna Gray: Assistant Professor, 1962-64; Associate Professor, 1965

Frances Ada Knox: Assistant, 1904-09; Extension Instructor, 1912-13; Extension Assistant Professor, 1914-15, 1921-27
Elizabeth Brook: Assistant, 1924
Margaret Maddox: Research Associate (Assistant Professor), 1958-62 Sylvia Thrupp: Associate Professor of Social Sciences in the College, 1960-61


Elizabeth Wallace: No title given, 1892

Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge: Docent, 1902-03; Associate Professor of Social Economy in the Department of Household Administration, 1921-25; Professor of Social Economy in Household Administration, 1926-33; Samuel Deutsch Professor of Public Welfare Administration (S.S.A.), 1933-46
Grace Abbott: Professor of Public Welfare Administration in S.S.A., 1935-39
Jean Schneider: Research Associate, 1944-
Susanne Rudolph: Associate Professor of Social Sciences in the College, 1965


Florence Richardson: Assistant Professor, 1921
Margaret Miller: Instructor, 1927
Virginia Brown: Instructor, 1946-47
Virginia Axline: Instructor, 1946-48
Leota Janke: Assistant, 1946; Instructor, 1947-53
Helen Lois Koch: Associate Professor in Home Economics, 1929-42; Professor in Home Economics, 1943-46; Professor of Child Psychology in Home Economics and Psychology, 1947--56; Professor of Child Psychology, 1956-60; Professor Emeritus, 1961-
Agnes Sharpe: Lecturer, 1947
Hedda Bolgar: Lecturer, 1948-55; Research Associate (Assistant Professor), 1956
Lorraine Bouthilet: Instructor, 1949-40; Assistant Professor, 1951-54
Anna Elonen: Assistant Professor, 1949
Jean Mackinzie: Research Associate, 1952-54; Lecturer, 1955-56
Ann Garrier: Lecturer, 1954-55
Laura Rice: Research Associate, 1957-61; Assistant Professor, 1962-408
Erica Fromm: Professorial Lecturer, 1962-

Margaret Frank: Assistant, 1931, 1933
Isadore Krechevsky, Research Assistant, 1935-40
Thelma Thurstone: Voluntary Research Associate, 1937-40; Research Associate, 1941-51 Dorothy Adkins: Research Associate, 1939-40
Margaret Hall: Assistant, 1944
Ruth Wright: Assistant, 1945-46
Rosalynd Dymond: Research Associate, 1952-53
Helen Heath: Research Associate, 1955
Beatrice Gelby: Research Associate, 1956-M


Edith Abbott: Special Lecturer, 1914-15; Instructor, 1916-18; Lecturer, 1919-20
Josephine Williams: Instructor, 1947-49; Assistant Professor, 1950; Research Associate, 1951
Evelyn Kitagawa: Instructor, 1949-50; Research Associate (Assistant Professor), 1952-60; Research Associate (Associate Professor), 1961-
Marlene Dixon: Assistant Professor in Sociology and Human Development, 1967-69

Mary McDowell: Head of University Settlement House, 1903-33
Annie McLean: Extension Assistant Professor, 1921-37
Ruth Newcomb: Assistant, 1932
Shirley Star: Research Associate, 1951-56; Research Associate (Associate Professor), 1957-60
Ethel Shanas: Research Associate (Associate Professor), 1958-65
Rita James: Research Associate (Assistant Professor) in Sociology and Research Associate in the Law School, 1960-61
Joan Moore: Research Associate (Assistant Professor) in Sociology, and Assistant Professor in Human Development 1960-61