Author's School

Arts & Sciences

Author's Department

Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Additional Affiliations

Director, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of History; Associate Professor, Department of Education; Associate Professor, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; Faculty with the Feminist Critical Analysis Seminar

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Although US universities in the early twentieth century offered the promise of meritocratic entry into the academic profession via the graduate training they provided, they did not fulfill that promise for women. Most women who trained for the PhD in social sciences—the focus of this chapter—and who remained in academia could only find positions in colleges. There they pursued scholarship, teaching, and service, the three central activities of the professional scholar, but found themselves restricted by the expectations of large teaching loads, limited resources, and lack of opportunity to train graduate students in these largely teaching institutions. Yet even in these environments, women social scientists created thriving careers, pursued research, located financial support for their research, and in the end transformed the colleges to be more receptive to faculty and student scholarship. In contrast, the few women scholars who were hired by universities as teachers and/or scholars had to negotiate carefully these institutional cultures, which were not by and large hospitable to women researchers, in an effort to obtain the recognition and support their male counterparts routinely received. The focus of this chapter is on women who, in the 1920s and 1930s, did make a place for themselves as researchers in American universities, how they accomplished this, and what they accomplished.

Book chapter "Gender, Professional Knowledge, and Institutional Power: Women Social Scientists and the Research University," published in The 'Woman Question' and Higher Education: Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America, ed. Ann Mari May (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2008).


This is a draft of a chapter that has been published by Edward Elgar Publishing in The 'Woman Question' and Higher Education: Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America, edited by Ann Mari May, published in 2008. DOI: 10.4337/9781848440159.00012

This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been edited. The definitive, published, version of record is available on Elgar Online.