Women economists in the academy

Struggles and strategies, 1900–1940

Authored by: Mary Ann Dzuback

The Routledge Handbook of the History of Women’s Economic Thought

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138852341
eBook ISBN: 9781315723570
Adobe ISBN:


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The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) held a meeting in New York in December of 1931, the first to focus on social science research in the colleges. The participants included representatives from twelve liberal arts colleges, most in the northeastern United States. The meeting was the result of a number of factors: the expansion of social sciences into the colleges, the growth in social science Ph.D. production, and the increasing commitment of some colleges to supporting and encouraging faculty research over the previous forty years. The meeting came at the urging of Marion Edwards Park, President of Bryn Mawr College, an institution that had long supported faculty research and developed Ph.D. programs for young women when American universities denied them entry. Park, like other college presidents, was wrestling with the tension between research and teaching resources for college faculties. Research had long been considered the province of research universities and the production of new knowledge the province of their male faculty. But women had been completing Ph.D.s in the social sciences for nearly forty years prior to this meeting, most at the very same research universities as their male research counterparts: Columbia, the University of Chicago, Harvard (Radcliffe), the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, and the universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, and California. In economics alone, women Ph.D.s reached just over 20 percent of the total in the early 1920s, before declining to a low of 10 percent in the middle 1950s. 2 Yet most of these same women were not perceived as productive researchers worthy of university positions and, instead, were recommended for and pushed to take teaching positions largely in the women’s colleges. The women economists who filled these positions are the focus of this chapter.

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