Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green
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Christine Ladd Franklin (1908)

First published in "Proceedings" of Publications of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, Series III, No. 17, pp. 143-146.

Posted July 2000

It is, I must admit, one of the functions of a committee to report progress, at the end of the year, to the association to which it owes its existence. The mathematicians are in the habit of admitting, among the quantities which it is their business to consider, the quantity zero and I fear that it is only by taking advantage of this subtle device that I can today fill the rôle of presenting to you what can pass for a report; for I am sorry to say that your committee has not yet succeeded in collecting the $25,000 necessary for putting our plan of an endowed professorship for women into operation. On the other hand, the times have changed to such an extent that what seemed a few years ago rather a venturesome undertaking -- the promotion of women to positions as lecturers in coeducational colleges -- is now so strongly fortified by precedent that no apology or defense for it is necessary. Nothing remains to be done but to devise the means for carrying it out. We have not proposed to collect the necessary funds in small sums -- I have for my part no longer such enthusiasm for voluminous letter-writing in the cause of women as I had in the days when the Association of Collegiate Alumnae fellowship was young. But I have found widespread interest in the scheme, not only among the good but impecunious, but also among a number of those happy individuals who have only to choose what one of the various alluring good projects presented to them they would most like to endow. The actual step of endowment these individuals have not vet taken, but I do not yet despair of their doing so.

I will recall to your minds in a few words the character of the scheme which it is here proposed to carry out. We have already a large number of Doctors of Philosophy [p. 144] in the country, many of them women who have fully proved their capacity for the most exacting forms of scientific and literary research. If they were men, the next step for them would be to become instructors and assistant professors in colleges and universities. As they are women, the number of positions open to them is extremely limited -- at least in the East. The women's colleges do not offer positions enough to meet the demand (and it is not even desirable for the students that all of these should be filled by women), and the coeducational colleges are for the most part closed to them. I find (from advance sheets of the forthcoming reports of the Bureau of Education, giving statistics for 1905) that there are now a little more than one-third as many women as men studying in the various colleges and universities of the country, and this is true of the graduate departments as well as of the collegiate; the exact numbers are 34/100 in the one and 35/100 in the other. (You will remember that there are three times as many girls as boys who graduate from the high schools.) Now there is no reason why women should not be freely admitted to the teaching positions in these colleges which they do so much to support. In other branches of activity the question of giving women an even chance (and we ask for nothing more) has already been settled on the side of fairness and justice. Lawyers, doctors, writers, artists, map be women as well as men. Why should conventual[sic] restrictions as to sex which date from the Middle Ages still prevail in the colleges? The editors of reviews and the publishers of books do not ask with reference to a given manuscript, "Is the author of it a woman ?" but only, "Is what she has to offer a thing of value ?" All we ask for our sex is that positions in colleges to which women are admitted as students should be filled in this same dispassionate way, by the brilliant and the distinguished among existing Doctors of Philosophy without regard to sex, or with very little regard to sex -- with the understanding, say, that whenever the woman applicant for a position is distinctly superior to the man she shall have the position. It is this civilized state of things that we are anxious to hasten the coming of by the device of what may perhaps be better called, as a modest intermediate stage toward an endowed professorship, a research fellowship and lectureship: that is, an endowed fellowship for purposes of research, with the condition attached that the incumbent shall be allowed, during her year of residence, to deliver at least a brief course of lectures.

That there is nothing inherently obnoxious in men and women in colleges being taught by women as well as by men we do not have to go far to prove, for it is the state of things that already prevails in the West and the Southwest. According to the report just referred to, there are already 1,017 women teaching in the coeducational colleges and universities of the country. This does not mean very much, for our Bureau of Education robs many of its statistical statements of interest by its vicious habit of including, for instance, the Central High School of Philadelphia among its colleges. (It does not put in, strange to say, the Baltimore City College, so called, a high school which meets its requirements in name if nothing more.) But, to extract from the report that part of it which is of interest -- that which concerns the institutions of the first rank -- we find that the University of Wisconsin has among its instructors twenty-five women; the University of Illinois, twenty-two; the University of Chicago, nineteen; Nebraska eighteen; Texas, seventeen; and so on down to the University of California, which has one. Or, to give the proportion of the instructors who are women: at the universities of Nebraska and Texas they constitute one-fourth of the teaching force, at Colorado and Illinois one-sixth, at Iowa and Wisconsin one-ninth, at Chicago and Kansas one-tenth, and so on down to the University of California, where they are the one one-hundred and sixty-fourth. If you talk with any of these women instructors you will find that for them (and for their fellow-professors as well) the only strange and anomalous state of things is that in which women do not lecture on equal terms with men. I have had myself the probably unique experience of lecturing for three years in a university where my own sex was forbidden to listen to me (it is only this year that women have been admitted to the non-medical part of the Johns Hopkins University), and I can only say that I have found the situation entirely free from any sense of the abnormal or the improper -- as a matter of fact, it has been delightful in the extreme. I am convinced therefore, both from statistics and from personal experience, that there are no real difficulties in the way of coeducational lecturing and instructing. [This argument is set forth with greater detail in my paper of 1904, of which reprints are still to be had.] [p. 145]

Observe that our plan would not involve forcing our candidate upon a university where she was unwelcome, or even where she was a stranger. Our most brilliant applicant will be sure to have studied already under the most distinguished professor in her subject in the country, and he would be far from being averse to having her return to his university, even with the condition attached that she should give a few lectures. To fix the ideas, let us take the case of Miss Gates -- she has already studied under Bumstead and Rutherford, and at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also well known, personally as well as by her important investigations (her work is the only American work mentioned in a recent French book on radio-activity), to all the members of the Physical Society. There is surely no physicist in the country who would not be glad to have her continue her work under him, at the modest cost of allowing her to give a brief course of lectures during each of her years (two or one) of residence. This course would naturally be on her special, very advanced, subject, and hence of such a nature that it would not be much missed when it came to an end -- of the nature of embroidery, a good thing to have but not an indispensable part of the regular course of study. But it is well known that the incoming instructors at a university are far more likely to be chosen from among the resident fellows and graduate students -- and especially from those who have already won their spurs by doing some lecturing -- than they are to be called in from the outside. It is only the already distinguished professor for whom one goes afield. Hence our fellow has a chance which she would otherwise not have at all of making herself a useful member of the department, and hence, the ice being broken, of being retained another year. But if that does not happen, she will at least have had one more year of, let us hope, brilliant work, and thus she will have been brought much nearer to the time when she becomes so distinguished that she gets her position as a matter of course and on her own merits. It is just this year or two of being assisted that would surely in very many cases, tide our fellow over her most critical period, and make just the difference between swimming and being obliged to sink, as regards her ever becoming a real savante, a woman of actual distinction.

The situation, in a word, is this: We ourselves know well that there are now many women in the country who are perfectly well fitted to be college instructors -- far better than many of the young men who receive appointments. It is true that the latest piece of wisdom which has been uttered on this subject -- that of the Dutchman, Professor Blok -- is to the effect that women "can be exceedingly useful as archivists, as assistant librarians, and also in the collection of materials, the publication of registers and catalogues, and the writing of articles of various kinds," but that they cannot become university professors. This judgment of incapacity we do not accept, but we must admit that there are strong reasons for women not having a fair show at the appointments; there are two reasons -- one which we can never get rid of: women are in danger of marrying and so of wrecking their scientific careers; and another which it requires only a little determined effort on our part to modify very much: the fact that it is strange, unusual, not the thing, not what happens in other colleges, to see a woman lecturing. But the world moves, and public sentiment changes. Samuel Johnson thought that it would never be possible for a woman to be a portrait painter, because for her to gaze into the face of a man long enough to paint his portrait would be "highly immodest in a female;" so in Germany, England, and France it would not be tolerated today that women should teach boys in the secondary schools. But in this country women are already college instructors in the West; the next step to take is to make them college instructors in the East as well. It needs, I am convinced, only a slight push, a bit of entering wedge, of breaking of the ice, to change the situation completely. And the weapon with which this can be done -- far sooner than it would happen in the natural course of events -- is a little money. Why is it almost exclusively women who are teaching in the public schools? There is one plain and simple reason -- they can be had far more cheaply than men. (One almost fears that the present movement to raise their salaries may, if it is successful, cost them many of their positions; though even if it did, the added dignity that would accrue to the sex from recognition of the equal-salaries principle would more than make that good.) Is it not worth while to apply the same economic principle, if only in very slight measure, to hastening the day when women can be teachers in the colleges as well? It is in this way -- as an object-lesson to show the entire non-abnormality of the situation -- that I value the plan -- not at all (or not in comparison) for the sake of the girl herself who will be benefited by it, [p. 146] important as this is when considered in itself. For it only needs a few women professors (or a few more than we have already) to enable women to take on quite a different attitude as regards their status in the public estimation. It takes so few swallows to make a summer! So long as women are not admitted to the rank of being considered, when they deserve it, good material for college professors, they are not treated, as a sex, with that recognition of their ability which we think they deserve. It is for the sake of overcoming these various handicaps, of adding a makeweight on the other side, that I desire to send out a few assisted research fellows and lecturers.

Pending the securing from some public-spirited person or persons of the endowment necessary for the carrying-out of this plan, there is one simple thing in the same direction which the Association can, if it likes, without formality, do at once. It can give preference, in the appointing of its fellows, to those women who have already taken the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and who have made a good start in the way of becoming original investigators. There would be nothing revolutionary in this; it happens that the holder of your fellowship this very year is a woman of exactly this description.

I venture, therefore, to make these two formal recommendations:

1. That this clause be added to the fellowship circular: In awarding the fellowship, preference will be given, other things being equal, to women who have already taken the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and who have in contemplation some important piece of investigation on lines already to some extent mapped out.

2. The Association shall look forward to giving a fellowship to students who would be willing to reside at universities where there would be no objection on the ground of their sex to their being invited to lecture.

After the Alice Freeman Palmer Fellowship has been secured, that might be considered to constitute a sufficient provision for the younger graduate students, and the fund then set free might perhaps be devoted to the furnishing, every other year, of the stipendium of a research fellow and lecturer.

I am convinced that the most crying need of the present time is the making possible of a greater number of women who are fully equipped for investigation of the most advanced type. It is not that I object to as many individuals as possible becoming Doctors of Philosophy before devoting their lives to teaching in the secondary schools, provided that they do it at the expense of themselves or of their relations, or of other associations. But for us, who ought to be in the very vanguard as regards well-thought-out schemes for advancing the standing of our sex, to devote a large fraction of our income to doing anything less than the most important work in sight, is not, I submit, to live up to our high opportunities.

Addendum (December 25, 1907). -- I mentioned in the above report that many persons to whom I have presented the schemes therein discussed have shown marked interest in them, and that I did not despair of their interest reaching, in some cases, the point of actual endowment. That happy event has now occurred. Mr. Emile Berliner, of Washington, is devoting the sum of $12,,500 to the founding of 3 research fellowship for women in the subjects physics, chemistry, and biology. This fellowship will probably be awarded every two years, beginning with March, 1909. A committee will be formed shortly for its administration. Meantime I shall be glad to answer any preliminary inquiries.


Baltimore, Md.