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Reviewed by:
  • Deans of Women and the Feminist Movement by Kelly C. Sartorius
  • Sara R. Kaiser
Deans of Women and the Feminist Movement
Kelly C. Sartorius
New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, 252pages, $100 (hardcover)

Deans of Women and the Feminist Movement is a significant exploration of the professional contribution of Emily Taylor, dean of women (DOW) at the University of Kansas (KU) from 1956–1974, to women in higher education. Through years of oral history interviews with Taylor, former students, family and friends, [End Page 340] and archival research, Kelly C. Sartorius uncovered Taylor’s contribution to higher education by developing her “own brand of feminism” (p. xx) to serve the women students at KU. Sartorius masterfully highlighted the role early DOW played in the mentorship and career development of Taylor, including Grace S. M. Zorbaugh, at Ohio State University and Kate Hevner Mueller, at Indiana University in the late 1930s and 1940s. The mentorship of Zorbaugh and Mueller and their role in various professional associations, especially the National Association of Deans of Women (NADW) and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) helped Taylor develop her own unique professional identity.

Sartorius’ work is more than biographical. She provided a deep examination of the historical context of the position of the DOW, the development of professional associations and networks, and the underlining climate women students, faculty, and administrators faced on college campuses throughout the Midwest from the 1930s to the 1970s. Sartorius utilized emergent themes to tell the story of Taylor rather than simply provide a biographical timeline. The result was a comprehensive account of Taylor’s career that explored the often-minimized role DOW played in the development of women college students and professional growth of the field of student affairs.

Exploring Taylor’s career as the DOW at KU, Sartorius emphasized the role of women in the academy between the women’s suffrage movement and women’s liberation of the 1960s and 1970s. In the introduction, Sartorius pinpointed the training and mentor-ship provided to Taylor by earlier DOW. Additionally, Sartorius examined the history of feminism in the context of higher education and advocacy for women.

In the first chapter, Sartorius described the influence Taylor brought to KU regarding the economic mobility and career choices she wished to provide the female students at the university. Through professional associations, and the Associated Women Students (AWS), Taylor effectively advised students on various vocational choices, and the need to be economically independent. Sartorius discovered Taylor’s own pursuit of women’s equality through equal pay, career placement and advancement for women outside of the home, and equal treatment of women students in the academy.

In chapters 2 and 3, Sartorius shared Taylor’s role in developing political citizenship of women students in the 1940s–1970s and the advocacy Taylor showed for women students to embrace more autonomy. Sartorius juxtaposed two types of deans of women; the strict disciplinarian who utilized AWS as a way to enforce rules and order, versus the champion who utilized student groups as a way for women to advocate for their own autonomy. In her early years as the DOW, Taylor initiated change, instead of students advocating for change. Sartorius continued to demonstrate how Taylor challenged AWS to move away from rule and policy development to focus on “women’s activism and scholarly activity” (p. 74).

In chapter 4, Sartorius described the various programming and counseling efforts conducted by her office to provide information regarding sex education, abortion, rape counseling, unplanned pregnancy, and sexual identity. At the crux of Taylor’s role was the desire to have women students make their own choices regarding their personal lives.

The role of the DOW in the 1960s and 1970s changed as campuses saw more unrest and protest from students regarding restrictive regulations and racial discrimination. Chapter 5 begins with a story of two female students who participated in a peaceful sit-in at the KU Chancellors office whom Taylor did not [End Page 341] suspend. The chapter illustrated a change in Taylor and her limitations to protect KU as the rise in activism emerged on campus.

In the 1970s, women’s activism was at the forefront on KU...


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