Educating the New Southern Woman
Speech, Writing, and Race at the Public Women's Colleges, 1884-1945
Publication Year: 2013
From the end of Reconstruction through World War II, a network of public colleges for white women flourished throughout the South. Founded primarily as vocational colleges to educate women of modest economic means for life in the emerging “new” South, these schools soon transformed themselves into comprehensive liberal arts–industrial institutions, proving so popular that they became among the largest women’s colleges in the nation. In this illuminating volume, David Gold and Catherine L. Hobbs examine rhetorical education at all eight of these colleges, providing a better understanding of not only how women learned to read, write, and speak in American colleges but also how they used their education in their lives beyond college.
With a collective enrollment and impact rivaling that of the Seven Sisters, the schools examined in this study—Mississippi State College for Women (1884), Georgia State College for Women (1889), North Carolina College for Women (1891), Winthrop College in South Carolina (1891), Alabama College for Women (1896), Texas State College for Women (1901), Florida State College for Women (1905), and Oklahoma College for Women (1908)—served as important centers of women’s education in their states, together educating over a hundred thousand students before World War II and contributing to an emerging professional class of women in the South. After tracing the establishment and evolution of these institutions, Gold and Hobbs explore education in speech arts and public speaking at the colleges and discuss writing instruction, setting faculty and departmental goals and methods against larger institutional, professional, and cultural contexts. In addition to covering the various ways the public women’s colleges prepared women to succeed in available occupations, the authors also consider how women’s education in rhetoric and writing affected their career choices, the role of race at these schools, and the legacy of public women’s colleges in relation to the history of women’s education and contemporary challenges in the teaching of rhetoric and writing.
The experiences of students and educators at these institutions speak to important conversations among scholars in rhetoric, education, women’s studies, and history. By examining these previously unexplored but important institutional sites, Educating the New Southern Woman provides a richer and more complex history of women’s rhetorical education and experiences.
Published by: Southern Illinois University Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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Introduction: Peculiar Institutions
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Until quite recently, much of the significant work treating women’s higher education in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries centered on single-sex private liberal arts colleges in the Northeast. When the first wave of revisionist and feminist scholars in the history of...
1. Making Modern Girls: The Ideals of the Southern Public Colleges for Women
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The features section of the 1930 Florida State College for Women yearbook is bookended by two striking photos (depicted on cover). Virginia Bailey, voted “most modern girl,” sits in the cockpit of a fixed-wing biplane, wearing a leather bomber jacket, aviator’s cap, and goggles. It’s easy to envision...
2. Effective Literacy: Writing Instruction and Student Writing
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Until recently, scholarship on women’s rhetorical education in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has tended to emphasize rhetorical constraints on women’s expression. Within the last decade, however, scholarly emphasis has shifted from examining how women’s voices...
3. Evolution of Expression: Speech Arts and Public Speaking
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Historians of rhetoric have for several decades now worked to recover women’s written rhetoric in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.1 As this work has evolved beyond what Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa E. Kirsch have called “rescue, recovery, and (re)inscription” (31)...
4. Useful Careers: Professional Training for Women of the New South
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"The growth of industrialism has favored women workers”: this finding came from a 1936 study sponsored by National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs in conjunction with the Alabama state chapter and Alabama College for Women (National Federation 15).1 How...
5. The Absent Presence of Race
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The Southern Public Colleges for Women were founded in an era when, in both popular and scholarly parlance, to be “southern” meant to be white. Prior to the Civil War, southern identity coalesced around the race question as the region sought to defend—and began to define itself...
Conclusion: A Continuing Legacy
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In her 1930 novel, of the Gastonia, North Carolina, millworkers’ labor uprising, Strike!, writer and activist Mary Heaton Vorse declared, “The South’s hard to understand. No one understands it, not even the Southerners” (8). Numerous historians have pointed out the complexity of writing...
Appendix: Name Changes of Southern Public Colleges for Women
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Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms
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Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms