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Reviewed by:
  • Higher Education for Women in Postwar America, 1945-1965
  • Jocelyn Buhain
Higher Education for Women in Postwar America, 1945-1965 Linda Eisenmann Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006, 304 pages, $45 (hardcover)

In Higher Education for Women in Postwar America, 1945-1965, Eisenmann (2006) dissected a crucial period in the advancement and accessibility of education. The author's objective for the book included the exploration of "the adaptive activism of postwar advocates for women, particularly regarding higher education, examining the nature of the advocacy and its relationship to the expectations of the postwar era" (p. 2). In essence, Eisenmann examined the factors that motivate and inhibit women from utilizing institutions of higher education. In fulfilling this task, the reader becomes aware of the ideologies, research, practices, policy, and responses that challenged women's quest for educational opportunities. Clearly, the historic visionaries strongly believed in the individual and collective power of educated women. Their ideas have manifested into constructive opportunities whose remnants continue to thrive in today's colleges and universities.

Eisenmann's literary style was clear, organized, and straightforward. She divided the text into three parts: ideologies, explorations, and responses. In Part 1, the author provided an enlightening review of the expectations that shaped the lives of women during the postwar era: patriotic duty, economic participation, cultural role, and psychological needs. These four historical ideologies threatened women's sense of place and obligation in a readjusting society. Women strived for balance in their lives as they juggled personal and familial responsibilities. In fulfilling roles as a wife, mother, and student, women stretched their time and energy.

As the number of women attending colleges and universities increased, the government responded by investing research and funding into this growing trend. In addition, the curriculum was changed in order to suit the unique needs of women. The general responses to women in higher education appeared in three themes: Some individuals supported this trend as a means to improve economic conditions, others supported their effort as a means for providing education that can improve domestic responsibility, and still others supported the cause because they advocated for gender equality. The role and responsibility of higher education to its students were being transformed and the general public's reaction to this evolutionary change was diverse.

In Part 2 of the book, Eisenmann provided a review of the research, practice, and policy that emerged as women advocated for inclusion in higher education. The role of education differs according to the phase of life that a woman is experiencing. The American Council on Education's Commission on the Education of Women led the research efforts in examining the motivations behind women's decisions to participate in higher education. In practice, the American Association of University Women and the National Association of Deans of Women were professional organizations that provided a forum for advocacy and support. In policy, The President's Commission on the Status of Women explored the extent to which women could fulfill their familial and community responsibilities. In general, the second [End Page 357] section of the text proposed that education increased the number of options available for women.

Eisenmann addressed the role of continuing education in the third and final section of the book. As an institutional response, continuing education addressed women's developmental differences. This program centered on the theory that women's needs varied according to their place in life. For example, the value of education was different for a woman expecting her first child than for a mother with adult children. For the former, this woman is preparing for the lifetime role of being a mother, whereas the latter individual is at a place in her life where she is free to examine her previous and/or new career interests. Eisenmann described the continuing education programs at the University of Minnesota, Sarah Lawrence, Radcliffe, and the University of Michigan as ways to highlight the challenges and successes that emerged from advancing higher education's scope of service.

In conclusion, Eisenmann has made a significant contribution to the field of higher education for her examination of the struggles and accomplishments accrued by pioneering leaders who advocated for women's growth...


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pp. 357-358
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