Cheryl Price-McKell PhD Defense: 'Navigating the Troublesome Terrain of Coeducation: Dean of Women’s Rhetorical Efforts in Negotiating, Defining, and Constructing Women’s Place in Higher Education'

Committee: Maureen Daly Goggin (chair), Shirley K. Rose, Kris Ratcliffe.  ::  ABSTRACT: The position of Dean of Women was created in response to novel exigencies rising from women’s acceptance to coeducational institutions of higher learning in the late nineteenth century. While these pioneering women administrators had a profound impact on women’s higher education in the United States, their work has received relatively little attention. In response to this discriminatory erasure, this dissertation applies feminist historiographical approaches and qualitative methods that center these women and their rhetoric within the historical narrative.

In particular, this dissertation explores, synthesizes, and analyzes the archived rhetorical documents produced by the National Association of Deans of Women (NADW) and Evelyn Jones Kirmse, an early University of Arizona dean of women, between 1922 and 1942. By privileging the rhetoric of these women and positioning them as authorities of their own experience within hegemonically masculine coeducational systems and administrations, this dissertation brings to light their own theories, debates, and arguments concerning how to best make room for women in higher education professionally, physically, and intellectually.

While positing the complexity and efficacy of their rhetoric, this dissertation also marks critical ideological negotiations within the deans’ arguments in response to socio-cultural shifts and opportunities born of the Progressive Era. By locating paradoxical navigations of traditional essentialist values and burgeoning progressive ideas within the deans’ rhetoric, this dissertation provides an important illustration of the awkward stage of growth within feminism’s development. It provides insight to deans of women’s own rhetorical explorations on how their identity and success should be constructed, attained, and measured in the new academic territory of coeducation.

This is a virtual presentation:

Sheila Luna
Friday, Apr. 15, 2022, 10 a.m.

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