In 1951, the University of Portland began admitting women as students to the College of Arts and Sciences. Though women had been admitted to nursing and music before the 1950s, since these were considered the proper sphere for women’s activities, the opening of CAS prompted the opening of the entire campus to women who wanted to study in any field.
The display featuring this milestone in the University’s history was created by the University Museum using photographs from the University Archives for the display case on the first floor of Buckley Center. Visit the display the next time you are in BC![nggallery id=17]
American women in the 1950s:
In her best-selling 1963 publication, The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan painted a picture of a 1950s world in which a life of domesticity proved the only option available for American women, noting that college admission rates for women had actually declined from the 1920s to the 1950s. Although Friedan’s claim accurately reflected some aspects of 1950s America- including the shifting gender ideologies brought about by the post-World War II era- it didn’t capture or define all of American women’s experiences in the 1950s.
In reality during the 1950s American women continued to attend college; they continued to work outside of the home (in fact married women’s labor force participation, increasing since the 1920s, continued to climb upward throughout the 1950s); women continued to be involved in political activities, spearheading some of the first anti-nuclear and peace organizations of the McCarthy era; and, though often over-looked, women such as Ella Baker, Pauli Murray, Rosa Parks, and Jo Ann Robinson played critical roles in laying the groundwork for and organizing the Civil Rights Movement.
If you’d like to learn more, consider taking one of the following courses in the Fall, 2013:
HST 316: History of Modern American Women
SW/PSY 356 Perspectives on Human Sexuality
For further reading:
Joanne Meyerowitz, editor, Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Post-War America, 1945-1960, (Philadelphia: Temple University, 1994.)
Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era, (New York: Basic Books, 1999.)