Is College Wasted on your Daughter? Orna Raz
In the introduction to Equality for Some: The Story of Girls’ Education Barry Turner argues: “The female intellect is a recent educational discovery. Traditionally Western civilization has distrusted and discouraged clever women, initially because they were regarded as a threat to the spiritual well-being of the community . . . and later because cleverness was not considered to be a high ranking quality for a good homemaker” (1974: 7). Turner’s assertion regarding the traditional distrust of “clever” women could partly explain why in 1950s Britain only 1% of the women population has gone to university and according to data supplied by the educationalist John Newsom in the late 1940s the proportion of men to women doctors are 46000 to 8500, architects 9600 to 350, legal profession 14500 to 300 and chartered accountants 3000 to 100 women.(Newsom 33) .
The issue of education was one of the first priorities of the British government toward the end of the Second World War. In 1944 the Butler Education Act assured free secondary education for all. This Act enabled more students to graduate from high school and to continue, with the help of a government grant, onto higher education (see Hewison 1981: 39). Prior to the Education Act, the high cost of education (both secondary and higher) made it affordable only to the privileged class. Moreover, as John Newsom notes, for practical reasons “many parents can not afford to give their daughter these advantages and if there are boys of equal capacity in the family they have first call on its resources” (1948: 31). In addition, formal education for women was relatively new; in 1875 Parliament legislated to enable universities to admit women if they wished. Virginia Woolf points to the contrast in the histories of women and men when she claims: “Your class has been educated at public schools and universities for five or six hundred years, ours for sixty” (12).
Thus, in order to go to university a young woman had to exhibit unusual academic talents, or to come from a learned family where the parents have been to the university themselves and advocate equality and education for women. Gaining admission to either Oxford or Cambridge was much more difficult for women than for men, since their enrollment was limited to only the few openings in the women’s colleges. John Newsom, the educationalist, not a friend of the feminist cause explains. “It is an expensive business to become a doctor or an architect and only the outstandingly brilliant girl will get her post school or even post university training subsidized out of public funds. Many parents cannot afford to give
Furthermore, once they were admitted, their presence in these universities was not always welcome. John Betjeman expresses a highly negative view of Oxford’s women who “drive out many good men from the clubs and societies they invade.” He even accuses them of raising the standard of examinations since “they work so more doggedly than many of the men” (1938: 40). The prominent feminist Edith Summerskill, an Oxford graduate, a physician, a Member of Parliament and a Minister of Cabinet, wrote to her daughter Shirley, a student in Oxford at that time (1957), that “it would be quite inaccurate to suggest that we were welcomed into the universities or into the public life” (1957: 143).
Vera Brittain, herself an Oxford graduate: during the 1940s and the 1950s, she writes, “many of the (relatively) few women graduates who married between 1910 and 1930 sent their daughters, who rarely failed to win places, up to their former colleges” (1960: 235).
The cultural tradition of the offspring following the parent to the same public school, college in Oxford or Cambridge, and club, was especially prevalent in men’s education. It preserved the educational and social traditions of their class and enabled young men to form connections with other suitable men from the same background. For men, however, the link between education and career was more straightforward; as Virginia Woolf notes, “The great majority of the men who have ruled England for the past 500 years, who are now ruling England in Parliament and the civil service, have received a university education” (1966: 24).
For the women, social status braced by education also had possible economic implications, but most often through their matrimonial future. According to Vera Brittain, “marriage is now the normal expectation for women undergraduates”; she quotes a 1954 survey which finds that the marriage rate for women graduates is as high as the rate for all women between 20 and 45 (1960: 232).
Based on an earlier pioneering sociological research, the feminist Judith Hubback published in 1957 a book titled Wives Who Went to College which examined the use of the higher education in the life of married women, in the word use I mean mostly practical use –meaning work. Although during the Second World War most British women worked outside the house and many women had a career, the 1950s was very much a domestic decade, and marriage, in most case, signaled the end of any possibility of a career.
My paper will discuss Hubback’s findings regarding graduate wives and the public response to her book as appeared in several newspapers at the time, and finally will attempt to answer the burning question of the time “Is College Wasted on your Daughter”( Sunday Express 22/9/57)
Study aim: p. 10 To find out how great a contribution highly educated women are making to society.
4 aims 1st to collect a large number of facts relating to the occupations of married women graduates.
2nd to discover from theat data whether substantial numbers of married women graduates of different age groups are in fact misemployed. In stating this second aim, the underlying assumption is evident . . that an entirely domestic existence is too limited for a highly educated woman. (11)
3rd To find out what types of congenial and suitable part time work are in fact being done at present by educated married women (12).
The last aim of the enquiry was the most long-term . .. to collect enough material, to contribute to the valuable attempt being made at present to consider what form the education of really intelligent girls should take (12-3).
Findings about employment, 64% of the graduates said they were running their house full-time. 19% of the graduates are doing full time paid work (as opposed to 9% non graduates), of this 9% were engaged in school teaching, coaching and examining, 2% in university teaching , 2% in the Civil service and administrative work , 1% in medicine, 1% in research and the rest in misc. They are done by greater numbers by those who have been married the shortest, and for longest, in other words the childless and those with no young children (48% had no children). Teaching, coaching and examining are paid occupations which are comparatively easy to combine with family life, the Civil service and other forms of administrative work are much less favored. The conditions are much less suitable for married women with families than jobs in education. (47) Before discussing part time work Hunbback mentions writing as a full time occupation and that under 1 % of the graduates are writing full time (48). And she adds” There are undoubtedly some very outstanding writers among women; but they will never be more than a very small minority of married women. The creative energy which flows for some years into child-bearing and rearing can be generated anew for creative writing., but by the time there are children it is difficult for a woman to be a full time writer. My sample contained no artists or composers, who are comparable”(48)
It is generally agreed that many educated married women want to find part time paid work and 32% are doing it, but that very little exists. The majority of graduate women doing part time paid job have children’ only 16% have none. The largest numbers of educated married women are teaching in one form or another. (50)
Closely linked to the question of what work the married women are doing now is that of what career they originally intended to follow and whether in fact they planned to have any career at all. Nearly 75% of the graduates (and 66% of the non graduates) aimed at a particular job or career. 60% aimed at teaching, 7% medicine , 5% journalists and 3% Civil service. It is worth mentioning that although 12% ended up doing secretarial jobs very few aimed at those.
One of the answers asked was “ In what respect has your career been affected by marriage or other circumstances (e.g. war, children) The largest category answers was 26% the birth of the first child brought their career to an end (p. 53) 23% said that they stopped work on marriage. The war ended or delayed the career of 17%
To the question “if you had to relive the University stage of your life would you study the same subjects as you did then 73% answered that they would study the same subjects again. Only 1% said that they would not go to university again if they had their lives again. Of the 27% the least contended were the Languages Group (23% of the English lit, 19% of the History, 18% natural sciences) probably as the only employment available was teaching.
Following the publication of the book Judith Hubback herself subscribed to a news clippings service and collected those clippings that dealt with her book. A few years ago she bequeathed the documents to the Women’s Library where I found them. The reactions of the writers and the discussion that the book stirred are as interesting (if not more) as the findings themselves.
Daily Mirror 25th sept 1957
Marjorie Proops Lectures on the Love Life of a female Egg head!
A man once pointed an accusing finger at me and said :’ The trouble with you is you are too logical. I pity your poor husband.
Many people pitied my poor husband for various reasons . But this was the first time he had been pitied because he was married to a female labeled :logical”/
I said to the man I have quoted above : “ are you then of the opinion that women with logical minds are a bad marriage bet?” He said “women with MINDS are a bad marriage bet. They are a menace and only a fool of a man would tie himself to one for life”.
I thought about this character last night while I was poring over a book written by a woman with a good deal of mind, Judith Hubback.
Her book just published is called “wives etc”(details) It is not the kind of boy-meets-girl book some women write, but a thoughtful work the result o an inquiry she made into the higher education of women.
Judith Hubback is a graduate of Cambridge university and clearly takes the view that an educated woman is of more value than an uneducated one.
More value to who (or is it whom?) To their husbands? Children? The Community? Or themselves? After struggling through this highly work, I am still not quite sure.
Mrs Hubback in the course of her researches quizzed about 1500 married women—1165 of them university graduates the rest non graduates.
They all answered a stack of penetrating questions about their education, home life, income, husband’s job and attitude and so forth. And the conclusions make fascinating reading.
The Only Chance?
But after working my way through 162 pages I Still do not know whether I am pleased or sorry I never went to college.
I Still do not know whether a woman needs higher education to be happy as a woman.
It seems to me that for the female egghead the only chance of domestic bliss is to fall in love with- and marry- a male egg-head.
But how many intelligent and well educated men want to marry intelligent and similarly educated females?
Interesting question. So interesting that I have been conducting my own Proops quiz on the subject.
My results are rather different from Mrs. Hubback’s . . . because I asked Men how they felt about educated wives. And I have to report that the majority do not give a darn about higher education.
agree with Mrs Hubback’s view that an educated wife is much more able to cope with the problems of running a home and bringing up a family than the girl who never bothered about her homework.
But whether Higher education and university degree are worth struggling for I wouldn’t know.
Naturally the ambitious girl who wants to enter a profession must have a top level education. But I do not think – from the results of my recent chats with men—that she stands much chance with her love –life.
That other woman writer, jane Austen, knew what she was saying when she wrote : “ A woman if she has the misfortune to know anything, should conceal it”/
From now on I am playing dumb with my old man
Psst script to the above : I had a phone call yesterday from a Mr. Burnett who runs an employment agency in London. “Thought you would be interested to hear” he said “ that there has been a great spate of teachers and nurses lately who want to change their occupation.”
-“for why? Asked I
It appears said Mr Burnett that they are browned off .with being teachers and nurses for two main reasons : pay and men or rather lack of opportunity to meet them.”
JOBS GO WEST
Nurses complain of low pay and the difficulty of making –and keeping –dates. Teachers complain of low pay and being forever in the company of their own sex.
The girls in spite of their education and training, are ready to throw up interesting jobs to get any kind of office work just to get the chance of meeting more men. Makes you think, Mrs. Hubback, doesn’t it?
Sunday Express 22/9/57
I College Wasted on your Daughter
By Cynthia Rhodes
Are you planning to spend 400pounds a year to give your daughter a university education? Do you imagine that by doing so , she will meet the right sort of people, make the right sort of marriage, and avoid a life of household drudgery?
If so, there is a book published tomorrow which you should read . . .Wives Who.. by JH , who is one of them
It presents a picture of a young wife—a picture which may well affect your decision.
The young wife’s husband earns something less than a 1000pounds a year , which is never enough for their standard of life (the big family joke is that the man is graded as a “Social Class 1 Husband” by the Royal Commission on Population .)The wife used to earn herself, but she gave it up after her first baby when she discovered that replacing herself at home cost 7pounds a week oiut of her 10pounds a week gross earnings.
Waste of time
So here she is, a full-time housewife with two children nd a daily woman for an hour every morning to help with “the rough”.
As she dashes round every morning with dusters and mop, she often thinks what a stupid waste of time housework is and vows she will take a job again, once the children are off her hands.
Meanwhile, gardening and dressmaking are a little mote satisfying than housework, and she tackles them gamely. She frequently feels overtired and strained and yet –the thing that constantly surprises her --she wouldn’t be single again—not for all the red roses from all the boy friends in the world.
That, briefly is the picture. A pretty average young wife, you think?
But here is the astonishing fact. The young woman is anything BUT average. She is one of the few women who went to a university and finished her education at the age of 22 with a mortar –board and a degree.
Yet with that expensive advantage she winds up in exactly the same comfy tourist class boat as most other intelligent married women.
Mrs. Hubback questioned 2000 married university graduates (half of them from Oxford and Cambridge) and sifted their reports over a period of four years.
One fact jumps out from every page of this careful book. Parents who make a financial sacrifice to send a daughter to university have a little hope of any reward that can be pinned down.
What sort of hopes does a parent start with?
That she will qualify to earn much more than the average girl?
The answer from mrs. Hubback’s book: “. . .she may very likely earn less than a comparatively uneducated typist of 17. .. parents have to envisage paying for a further period of professional training. . “ Most of the girls become secretaries or teachers – and marry within five years of leaving college.
That she will make a dazzling marriage?
The women in the survey found pleasant rather than dazzling husbands. Twenty-five per cent married teachers ; nine percent doctors; eight percent Church ministers ; seven per cent scientist – and the rest divided among other professions. Thirty eight per cent met their husbands at university.
Not a “wedding of the year” among them –but at least they got married. Twenty years ago men were frightened to death by a highly educated women—and even today many men are not prepared to marry a girl more intelligent than themselves, says Mrs. H.
THAT –leaving material gain on one side—she will have a richer fuller life?
It should be but there is a real danger that the woman who has specialized and cannot continue will feel frustrated as a housewife.(Hence the “strain and overtiredness” so many of the 2000 complained of.)She wants to be in a laboratory changing test tubes – and she’s stuck changing nappies. She’d like to be at the drawing board, but she’s at the sink.
Like the qualified woman architect who has her T-square hanging on the kitchen wall “as a sad symbol of old ambittions”.
So what difference does a university training make for the graduate who marries?
One very tangible difference. More children.
“Higher education seems to be associated with higher fertility”, says Mrs. H, who gives a table showing how the size of the family increases with the mother’s academic success.
At the top there is the young “blue stocking” wife with the First Class Hons. Oxford and the bouncing average of 2.32 children.
How the early pioneers for women would mourn today’s trend.
The big aim was to solve “the incompatability between the intellectual and biological sides of a woman’s life.”
And here we atre back where we sta
The Royal gazette 23/09/57
College Girls Would Do Better learning Typing
(special through Reuter)
Ten thousand British girls entering universities for the first time in the next two weeks got a severe shock today.
They were warned that they would earn more money in the future if they stayed at home and learned to type, that their chances of making a dazzling marriages were virtually nil, and that since almost all of them would marry soon after graduation they would forever after be frustrated , dreaming of great careers while doomed to household drudgery. (the rest describes the findings of the book).
The Scotsman 28/09/57
Home and away –27
Graduating to The kitchen Sink
Higher Education has nothing to do with running a home.
“Mummie you’re an M.A. That makes you an academic wife”. Said Elizabeth, who was reading the review of Mrs. Hubback’s “Wives”. “Have you got problems?” “Plenty ,” I said vaguely. “You, and James, and your father, and inflation , and what’s for supper, and everything. “Do you feel that dishwashing is a waste of your special capabilities, or do you run your home all the better for your years at the University” quoted my child.
Which all goes to show the lack of realism among academic girls that Mrs. Hubback consulted . Higher education has absolutely nothing to do with running a home. Either they can or they can’t – the way people are born actors or mathematicians.
The smartest house-runner I know is a highly-qualified bacteriologist. She fancies that she is a good cook because her scientific training has made her exact about measuring out ingredients, and she has the notion that her house shines bacteriology has given her a phobia about germs. But I know perfectly well that if she had been a shop assistant she would still have come out on top of this domestic battle, because she is energetic , deft efficient, and a born cook.
As a hopeless housewife, whom Mrs. Hubback could have put at the top of her six per cent academic wives who dislike domestic occupations, I don’t believe that my years at university had anything to do with this, one way or the other.I was born the sort of woman who, however clean her chamois, however bathed her children, smears windows and discovers, half way to the party, that the scrubbed child’s ears still look dingy.
I lose the battle every day against dust, ashes, beds, milk bottles, cooking, dishes , grooming the family , and keeping down the overdraft. To me successful housekeeping is practically an occult triumph.
Someone once told me that the whole secret of keeping a tidy house is keeping a tidy mind. “You should have taken an accountant’s training instead of all that hazy stuff about Hamlet and Kierkegaard” she said severly, looking at my tumultuous linen cupboard. “But I count on my fingers.” I protested “Maybe , but these arts degrees just provide convenient treacle well for you people who never get to grips with anything . You dive in to escape from firm conclusions about living, and come out again stickier than ever, and all gummed up with mysticism on one shelf and towels on another”.
“Even if I had gone to a school of domestic science, I shouldn’t have been any better,” I protested reasonably. “It’s not moral philosophy to blame, it’s just just lack of moral fibre. It’s a disease like alcoholism. Right down inside me, I don’t care about dust, because caring about it means putting myself to never-ending trouble”
“But you are in never –ending trouble as it is “ said my friend. “Now, there are the sheets and things all arranged . Please try just enough mental discipline to keep them that way”.
“I don’t think dish-washing is a waste of my special capabilities. After 15 years of domesticity, I don’t think I have any special capabilities at all, academic or housewifely. (This is what Mrs, Hubback calls the mud-flats of self deprecation, the alternative to running on the rocks of shouting “I’m Educated!”) It just seems to me that dish-washing is a waste of any woman’s time educated or illiterate. But this major, inescapable bore is a fact of life on this plane, and what can we do about it except do it?
The sad thing si that the academic wife because she almost always marries an academic husband can practically never afford, as a result, to do anything but wash her own dishes. Therefore, the out for this girl, who seems to be more indignant than other girls about dish-washing, is not to develp her particular capabilities in the first place. Then she will probably marry outwith the academic circle, which is doomed to flounder in the dreary, underpaid academic world, going without servants and everything else in order to give the children the opportunity to get into the same mess.
According to Mrs. Hubback’s researches, academic wives have bigger families than other wives. I don’t believe that this suggests that highly educated ladies are necessarily more enthusiastic or more absent-minded. I think it is tied up with some bookish or idealistic determination to live up to the statistics and principles that enjoin at least 3 children per family as necessary to the future economic welfare of the country.
Despite the fact that only 41% of academic wives enjoy domestic occupations, which means that the odds are against attaining contentment as anacademic wife, we al instinctively edge our children towards the same chancey path. Even knowing that our training has unsettled many of us for dedicated housewifey, and wryly acknowledging that the happiest and, indeed, the cleverest woman is the one who fulfills herself completely in home and family life, we still want our daughter to dive into that delicious treacle well.
But I should just like to say, as the possessor of what my children call a very old fashioned M.A, because I can’t do their arithmetic homework, that Mrs. Hubback should not have based her judsments upon research limited to Aberdeen and St. Andrews. Everyne knows that east coast women are far brisker, more practical, and naturally better housewives than west coast women.
To get the full horror of the situation she could have come to a draggled Glasgow wight like me.
Sunday Mail Salisbury S. Rhodesia
Once she was smart and ultra modern but now you ask
WHATEVER Happened to the career Girl? By Anne Edwards
Whatever has become of the career Girl?
She just doesn’t seem to be around any more. She has been replaced by the Little Woman.
I used to know the career girl well. She was tailored and supposedly tough. Smart, successful , and un domesticated. A trifle aggressive perhaps because she had so much to fight against.
Other men pitied her husband. Other wives (the kind who used to be called old fashioned) looked at her newfangled, independent life and compared it a little enviously with their own.
Out Of Date
But today the Career Girl once so ultra-modern is little out of date. Today’s modern girl makes no bones about the fact that she prefers marriage to a career.
Every statistic and every survey that I have read, every official in the business of employing women whom I have consulted, agrees on it. Career girls are on their way out—and the Little Woman is on her way back.
And when Judith Hubback made her survey of Wives Who etc, she discovered that only one-fifth of the women graduates did a full time paid job.
I wonder why the Little Woman has returned in such force? It could be because she has realized the truth of what men have been telling her for years, that her place is in the home
It could be that she looks around at older Career Girls and does not care for what she sees. It could be because she has learned that her way is easier meat on the whole.
Personally I am sad to report that now, when no one will condemn a girl for trying to combine home, babies and a job she very seldom tries to do so.
Now that she can do as she likes, she does very little. Now that she hss the world on a string, she settles for the one job that makes a nonsense of equal pay, higher education freedom of this and that, and all the other golden promises.
It was all such a glittering rainbow—once.
And over the rainbow, what after all is she doing on the other side? Why, it turns out that she is back where she started from, with a stack of dirty dishes in the sink and a pram in the hall.
Not her fault
Perhaps she has only got what she wanted. Perhaps she has only got what she deserved.
I would like to think, though, that it is not altogether her fault.
The question that keeps popping from the reactions of the writers is the same question that Judith Hubback ends her book with a chapter “Education For what?” Although the women themselves are not sorry that they went to university and had an education most of them were able to find only unsatisfactory part time jobs. In a book entitled Careers for Mothers (Parents magazine) by Josephine Snelly that was published in 1957, the same year that Hubback published hers, the jobs offered to university graduates are part time marking examinations papers, coaching, reading for a publisher, translating, part time teaching in schools. The forwarded by Brenda Lewis, Editor of Parents Magazine ends a word of caution that is indicative of the period: “Finally, no matter how enthusiastic you get over your job, remember that the family comes first” (p2) In this book
It seems that people like John Newson were more realistic, his calculation that an investment in women education especially in the heavy professions like a doctor or an architect is an “expensive hobby” and only the outstandingly brilliant girl will get her post school or post university training subsidized out of public funds. . . At every stage the dual function of women in society affects the issue since their period of employment will be temporary and economic security will be provided buy the husband why spend time and money to give a girl a girl a prolonged professional training? The answer that it will make her a better wife and mother or that she may combine marriage and a profession is unfortunately not based, nor can it be based on any scientific evidence. Newsom adds that as long as there are not enough places at university or hospitals boys will be favored and he is not embarrassed to admit that once they are accepted there is “a male prejudice against women entering those callings which for centuries were male professions, to justify what he says he claims that women themselves “seem to prefer to seek the the professional advice of a man to that given by one of their own sex, while few men will deliberately choose a woman doctor or barrister for their own service if a male of equivalent qualifications is available” (31-3). Hubback discusses the importance of education in expanding the horizons of women but finally and sadly and often the only thing that many of the graduates whose fertility was on average higher than the rest of the population managed to do was to raise a large number of children (and probably girls) who went to university as well, the world that awaited for them was not that different from the world of their mothers.