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The following program is produced and recorded in the studios of KPFA Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. We present the American woman in fact and fiction from Colonial Times to the present day. A series of 13 programs written and directed by Virginia Maynard and produced by Virginia Maynard and Charles Levy Part 8. The tree of knowledge toward the close of the 18th century much serious attention was being given to the subject of the education of women in the western world as early as six thousand nine hundred three. John Locke thoughts concerning education and advocated private instruction of a sort for young girls. But the general feeling throughout the 18th century and far into the nineteen was that if woman as the Bible taught was created merely to be the helpmeet of man and to propagate the race there was no need for her to learn anything that would not contribute to her usefulness in her sphere according to her situation in life. Woman was either a domestic drug joy an idle ornament to her household. Young girls of families who are able to afford it
might be given private instruction which would increase their chances of getting a good husband. It might be taught to dress well to dance to paint to sing perhaps to speak a little French in order that they might be more attractive than accomplished companions of their husbands. They should be taught enough of the three Rs to be able to read the Bible in the cookbook and to keep the household accounts. But beyond that education for women was considered entirely unnecessary and even detrimental to the feminine character. Moreover it was felt that higher education for women would be productive of disastrous effects upon the established order of society said John Jacques Rousseau in Emilia's. If women are given an education corresponding to that of men they will become less subservient to men. For this reason the education of women should always be relative to men. To please to be useful to us to make us love and esteem them to educate us. When young and take care of us when grown
up to advise to console us to render our lives easy and agreeable these are the duties of women at all times and what they should be taught in their infancy. They ought to be allowed but little liberty since they are apt to indulge themselves excessively. You know what is allowed them. They ought to learn even to suffer injustice and to bear the insults of a husband without complaint. They should cultivate their agreeable talents in order to please their future husbands with as much care and as a duty as a young passion cultivates hers to fit her for the harem of an Eastern Balshaw Russo's emirs was published shortly before our Revolutionary War and was widely read throughout Europe and the United States. One Doctor Gregory whose work a legacy to his daughters was a late 18th century classic in female propriety advised women that if they had any knowledge they should keep
it carefully hidden. Be cautious even in displaying your good sense or it will be thought you were soo much superiority over the rest of the company. But if you happen to have any learning. Keep it a profound secret especially from the eyes of men who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on a woman of great parts and a cultivated understanding. This last would serve to remind us that despite the interdict of man there were some women who were surreptitiously filching fruit from the forbidden tree of knowledge. Thomas Jefferson's letters to his little daughters while he was in France give us an idea of the private education of young ladies in the new United States of America. The acquirements which I hope you will make under the tutors I have provided for you will render you more worthy of my love. And if they cannot increase it they will prevent its diminution with respect to the distribution of your time. The following is what I should approve. From eight
to ten practice music from ten to one dance one day and draw another from one to two. Draw on the day you dance and write a letter the next day from three to four. Read French from four to five. Exercise yourself in music from five to bedtime read English write etc.. I expect you will write me every post. Inform me what books you read what tunes you learn and enclose me your best copy of every lesson in drawing. Take care that you never spell a word wrong. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well. I have placed my happiness on seeing you good and accomplished. If you love me then strive to acquire those accomplishments which I have put in your power and which will go far toward ensuring you the warmest love of your affectionate father. And in another letter Thomas Jefferson wrote above all things and at all times let your clothes be neat and properly put on. Some ladies think they may under the privileges of the desert be to be loose and negligent of their
dress in the morning. But a lady who has been seen as a sloven in the morning will never efface the impression she has made with all the dress and pageantry she can afterwards involve herself in. Nothing is so disgusting to our sex as a want of cleanliness and delicacy in yours. In the mean time you should be taught to play on the harpsichord to draw to dance to read and talk French and such other things as will make you more worthy of the love of your friends. Remember as a constant charge not to go out without your bonnet because it will make you very ugly. And then we shall not love you so much if you always practice these lessons. We will continue to love you as we do now and it is impossible to love you any more. Yours affectionately. Thomas Jefferson. But such an education stressing the accomplishments and charming qualities of a young lady was not practicable for the majority of Americans. The average American woman needed to know enough to give her children at least the rudiments of an education. The continual
expansion of the front tear meant that many children would be brought up in places where there were no schools and women needed to be prepared to fill the slack. Further the widening occupational opportunities for women assessor stated that they know how to keep accounts to make independent judgments and to keep pace with the laws and thought of their time. The American mind was awake and girls as well as boys wanted to learn as early as sixteen eighty four when it was decided at New Haven that the instruction of girls was improper and inconsistent with such a grammar school as ye law enjoins. We learn that certain small or good whose members had been neglected and who had the natural curiosity of their sex sat on the schoolhouse steps and heard the boys recite or learn to read and construe sentences from their brothers at home and were occasionally admitted to school. The Quakers from a first in America had advocated free schooling for both girls and
boys and the Germans and Moravians at established elementary education for both sexes in connection with their churches in 1789 the public school system was established in Boston with girls being allowed to attend primary classes during certain months out of the year and other New England towns voted to set aside an hour or two daily for the instruction of females by the turn of the century. Private academies of a college preparatory nature were beginning to open their doors to young women. Harriet Beecher Stowe describes one of these early co-educational ventures in her novel old town folks which looks back to the period following all revolutionary war. The pupils of the Academy numbered about 100 equally divided between the two sexes in the generality of country academies the girls and boys studied side by side without any other restriction as to the character of their studies than personal preference. As a general thing the classics in the higher mathematics were more
pursued by the boys than the girls. But if there were a daughter of Eve who wished like her mother to put forth her hand to the tree of knowledge there was neither Cherubim and a flaming sword to drive her away. Mr. Rossiter the master was always stimulating the female part of his subjects to such undertakings and the consequence was that a new school an unusual number devoted themselves to these pursuits and the leading scholars in Greek in the higher mathematics who were among the girls. The female principal when MS did come supervise the manners morals and health of the young ladies and also gave special attention to female accomplishments. These So far as I could observe consisted largely an embroidery mourning pieces with a family monument in the center and a number of weeping mourners whose faces were often concealed by flowing pocket handkerchiefs. Mr. Rossiter although we of course would not infringe on the Kingdom of these female associate treated these accomplishments with a scarce concealed contempt. It was perhaps the
frosty atmosphere of skepticism which you breathed about him touching those works of art that prevented his favorite female scholars from going far in the direction of such accomplishments. Miss Minerva Randall who had talked to the class reading Virgil was one of those preternaturally well-informed old mermaids who so far as I know are a peculiar product of the state of Maine study and work had been the two passions of her life. And in neither could she be excelled by man or woman. She was one of those female persons who were of Sojourner Truth opinion that if women want any rights they had better take them and say nothing about it. Her sex had never occurred to her as a reason for doing or not doing anything with her hand found to do. She had no folderol about Woman's Rights but she was wide awake to perceive when a thing was to be done and to do it. She always clung persistently to the racy Yankee dialect of her childhood and when she was discoursing of Latin and the classics the idioms made a gruelling mixture. Why
don't you know what that air is she would say. That air is a part of the Geron didn't dumb. You've got to decline it and then you'll find it. Or look here my girl she'd say run that air through the moods and tenses and you'll get it in the subjective or messy child that airs one of the deep moment verbs don't got any active form them Dep. not verbs always does trouble yet you get used to him. But enough of this. We were boys and girls together and our ability not our sex determined our fitness for intellectual application. The question which troubles us in modern times whether man and woman can with propriety pursue their studies together was actually sold without discussion by the good sense of our Puritan ancestors in throwing the country academies where young men were fitted for college open alike to both sexes so that in these lonely mountain towns under some brilliant schoolmaster young men and women actually were studying together the subjects usually pursued in college.
Mary Wollstonecraft of indications of the rights of women which was published in England in 1792 accelerated this trend toward the better education of girls which was already beginning in America. Admitting the faults of women which were commonly pointed out as reasons why they were not capable of being educated that they were weak illogical narrow minded credulous vain Mary Wollstonecraft held that these were the results of a mistaken education and not inherent in the sex. She attacked Rousseau or Dr. Gregory Lord Chesterfield and all authorities on the subject of women's education and came out squarely to advocate co-educational schools at a national school system for the mutual advantage of both sexes. By the 20s in America state subsidised high schools for girls began to make their appearance in various parts of the country and some communities began to admit girls in limited numbers to the existing state secondary schools on a coeducational basis. There was still much protest against educating. However the first public examination of a
girl in geometry in 1829 at the state subsidised seminary of Emma Willard in Croydon New York attracted much ridicule and widespread indignation with the diehards proper sighing the speedy dissolution of the family and even of the state what with females being taught such nonsense. But Oberlin College in Ohio opened its doors to women on a coeducational plan in 1833 and the first round of the battle for advanced education of women was won. In the 15 years that followed some dozen or more women's colleges were established in America including two female medical colleges of Boston and Philadelphia. In 1844. Margaret Fuller of the Boston intellectual published her woman of the 19th century and made a strong plea for the higher education of women and insisted upon their right to be educated for the professions if they so desire. But this is Saturday as a whole the learned woman was still a blue stocking and the woman medical student or other aspirant to the
professions a figure of fun. There is an amusing account in Alice stone black was Lucy Stone of the experience of Elizabeth Blackwell the first young woman to gain admission as a medical student in the United States. This was in 1847 in a small hitherto male university in Geneva New York. The class consisted of about one hundred fifty young men. They were so riotous and noisy that the neighbors had repeatedly threatened to have the college indicted as a nuisance. One morning the Dean appeared before them and told them that the faculty had received a most extraordinary request. I young lady had applied for admission. They had decided to refer the question to the students if they were all willing she might enter if even one objected she would be refused. Dr Smith said the faculty did not really wish to admit error and they thought someone would be sure to object. But it struck the class as an enormous joke. A class meeting was held at which a series of
speeches was made each more extravagant than the last. And all in favor of admitting the young lady when the vote was taken there was a great shout of awe and a single faint. No. Then the other students fell upon the solitary objector and cuffed and mauled him till he changed his vote. Some days passed. They had forgotten all about the matter. One morning while they were waiting for the professor and making their usual uproar the door opened and he came in accompanied by a young lady of small stature and plainly dressed but of a very firm and determined expression of countenance. At once every student seized his notebook and scuttled to a seat and you might have heard a pin drop. Perfect order prevailed till the close of the lecture and it continued till the end of the course. But the people of Geneva felt sure that she was either a bad character or a lunatic. A doctor's wife at her boarding place refused to speak to a women passing year on the street held their skirts aside and sometimes made insulting
remarks. She graduated in 1849 at the head of her class. The first woman in modern times to take a medical degree. This experience of Elizabeth Blackwell was mild in comparison with the persecution she later endured and in comparison with the violent opposition encountered by many of the early women medical students even after the Civil War when women's ability to care for the sick and injured had been demonstrated beyond a doubt. The propaganda against the woman physician continued though it took subtler forms in the early persecution by 1874 When Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner wrote the Gilded Age the woman medical student was not such a freak as she appeared in Elizabeth Blackwell's day. No was she necessarily a person to be scorned or insulted in the Gilded Age the character Ruth Bolton who wishes to become a doctor is sympathetically drawn from the late 19th century point of view but the 19th century notion that no true woman was physically able to undergo such a strenuous course of study as medicine is
fully exploited. That's Ruth like all good heroines of her day is a delicate girl always on the verge of a breakdown. She is also a Quaker a symbol of these new fangled notions about women with decided ideas concerning the rights of her sects. We are introduced to Ruth and her family in the following scene. Ruth Well mother my father and I want to talk with you a little about Tipler rather the nose I couldn't stand it at Westfield the school stifled me it. It's a place to turn young people into dried fruit. What will they do. Why is they so discontented if I must say it not that I want to go away and get out of this dead level. I want to go to a different kind of school that I always greatly tried me who he is starting out on a dangerous path. Is thy father willing they should go away to a school of the world's people. I haven't
asked him. They can ask me now. Another father. I'm going to study medicine. The study medicine a slight frail girl like the study medicine. Does he think he could stand it six months and the like and the distracting rooms. Has the thought of that. I have thought it all over. I know I can go through the whole clinics distracting Roman all does the think I lack nerve. What is there to fear in a person more than a person living. Father will we not take my part. But diet health and strength. They can never stand the severe application. And besides suppose they don't learn medicine. I will practice it here where the NY family are known. If I can get patients I hope at least Ruth they will let us know when he opens an office.
I leave the now mother let her go. Ruth what does ails the child. I wish I could go west door or south or somewhere. What abox women are put into and measured for I didn't put it in young. If we go anywhere it's in a box veiled and pinioned and shot in by disability. I should like to break things and get loose. There will no doubt break things enough when the time comes. Women always have. What does the one know that you and I want to be doing to make myself something to do or something. Why should I Ruston and be stupid and sit in inaction because I'm a girl. What would happen to me if if he should lose that property and die. What one useful thing could I do for a living. But the support of mother in the children. And if I had a fortune what would
what they want me to lead a useless life has died another useless life somewhat That depends upon whether her children amount to anything. What's the good father of a of a series of human beings who don't advance any. I wish they would make up my mind and remember a young fella Bolden. He hasn't asked me yet. He knows he would if he would give in the least and good human being knows quite well that Philip is going out West to seek a fortune in mining. Besides I shouldn't want to say yes to any man until. I had a profession that was as independent as he was. I would be free and not in any way necessity. I think Rosie gets this new philosophy. But Ruth had her way and she enrolled in the woman's medical college in Philadelphia to become a female sawbones. There were not more than a dozen students altogether
continues the Gilded Age. So the Enterprise had the fascination of pioneering for those who engaged in it. There was one woman physician driving about town in her carriage at the time attacking the most violent diseases with persistent courage like a modern Bellona in her war chariot. Perhaps some of these students look forward to the day when they would support such a practice and a husband assigns. But the likelihood was that most of them would never go farther than practice in the hospitals of their own nurseries and would be quite as ready as their sisters in emergencies to call a man. Young Philip Bolton was astonished at Ruth proposed occupation but he had the good sense not to interfere with her plans. It was his theory that whatever a woman's notion of life might be she would come round to matrimony give her time and yield like an icicle yields to a sunbeam. But it was to be expected in the 1903 Ruth's delicate health began to suffer under her arduous pursuit. She transferred to a coeducational college for a complete change of scene. Here she became acquainted with a great
many young men some of whom were not averse to the idea of a woman physician if she were pretty enough who felt even that a woman's intuition might be a great advantage in the practice of medicine in helping her to diagnose illnesses. She also began to take delight in the exercise of those little arts of pleasing and winning which are none the less charming says the gilded age because they are not intellectually a fact which Ruth had never before suspected. But she did not give up her medical studies and accordingly some time later when Philip had been injured in a fire we find her assisting with the utmost coolness and with skilful hands. The surgeon who dressed his wound as it was Ruth's first case in this scene Philip is convalescing. Ruth if this is what is meant by women practicing medicine I like it. Then I'd better call in Mrs. Dr. long so no one will do it at a time. I think I should be well tomorrow if I thought I should never have any other physician
than you wish that my physician thinks they mustn't talk to me. But Ruth I want to tell you that I should wish i never got well he must not talk. The is wandering again. Ruth does they think their position will take advantage of a man who is as weak as the is. I will call someone else if he has any dying confession. Don't go. I was just going to say I was thinking of Laura Hawkins that Washington lobbyist who just shot Colonel Selby. And is she as beautiful as the newspapers say she is. She has a kind of beauty. But Ruth do you believe a woman ever becomes a devil. I don't know why women shouldn't. But I never saw one. It's dreadful to think of her fate now that any New York jury would find a woman guilty of such a crime. But think of her life if she is acquitted. It's dreadful but the worst of it is that you men
don't want women to be able to earn an honest living. They're educated as if they were always to be petted and supported. And it was never to be any such thing as misfortune. I suppose now that you would choose to have me stay ID home and give up my profession no I respect your resolution but Ruth do you think you would be happier or do more good in following your profession than having a home of your own. What is to hinder me having a home of my own. Nothing perhaps only you never would be in it. You would be away day and night if you had any practice. And what sort of a home with that make for your husband. What sort of a home is it for the wife whose husband is always away riding about in his doctors. You know that isn't fair. The woman makes the home I should go back to the mine with a great deal better heart Ruth. If I knew you cared for me I had better take that path. It's truth they mustn't lose heart. The nose I graduate in
the summer and shall have my diploma. And if anything happens mines explode several times they can send for me. Now they must sleep. In the course of the novel Ruth's parents lose their money through their investment in Philip's mind and they're reduced to extremely straitened circumstances while the girl is finishing her internship in the hospital. It seems likely that Ruth and her profession will eventually become the mainstay of the family. But Philip strikes cold in his mind just didn't time and makes his fortune and retrieves father Bolton's just as Philip is about to communicate this glad New Jersey receives a telegram Ruth is critically ill. Her delicate health has broken down again under the strain of concentrated study and overwork. Philip returns to find her near death. This is golden. Philip I am so happy he is calm and Ruth.
She's very ill. But quieter than she has been and the fever is a little abating. But the most dangerous time will be when the fever leaves here. The doctor fears she will not have strength to rally from May I. Yes you can see here is her room. If she were only in your spacious room in our old home. He sees she is so lovely too. Ruth Phillip is here do you. It is only her indomitable will that has kept you up food. And if that should leave her now there will be no who the could do more for her now than 80 when I got home Mrs. Morton. My presence here more than anything else will help me to do the ice so want to live. If you will don't you must. The Gilded Age continues. Philip's voice of faith and courage carried a thrill of determination of command along Ruth's
nerves. Slowly Philip drew her back to life. Slowly she came back as one willing but well-nigh helpless. It was new for Ruth to feel this dependence on another's nature to consciously draw strength from the will of another. It was a new joy to be lifted up and carried back into the world by a stronger power than her own. My sweet. I would not have cared to live but for that not for the profession darling the whole of the May be glad enough of that some day when I called it is dug out and the Father are in bad straits again. Thus this episode of the Gilded Age concludes with Ruth giving up her profession to become Philip's wife and proving herself a true woman. In the end despite her modern ideas in actual practice in 1874 women aspiring to one of the professions were not often so charitably
treated as was Ruth in the Gilded Age. But the demand for higher education for women continued despite the public sentiment against it. And even true women became doctors and prove that they were more capable of strenuous study and work than supposed. By the end of the 19th century only seven important medical schools in the United States remained closed to women and women had won the right to be educated along with the men of the country. In almost any field of their choosing. That was part eight of the American woman in fact and fiction from Colonial Times to the present day. A series of 13 programs written and directed by Virginia Maynard the cast included Charles Levy owners Landauer Marquis Paterson Arnold will Angela gold the Virginia Maynard William Matheson and Edwin Smith engineering was by David L. Talcott the American woman in fact and fiction was produced and recorded in the studios of KPFA Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and is being
distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the energy B Radio Network.
American woman in fact and fiction
The tree of knowledge
Producing Organization
pacifica radio
KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Views on education of women; an early co-educational school in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Oldtown Folks; scenes from The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner.
Series Description
Thirteen half-hour programs illustrating with dramatization the changing status of women in America from colonial times to the present day, plus a one-hour panel discussion on modern-day problems.
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Actor: Levy, Charles
Actor: Goldsby, Angela
Actor: Mawson, C.A.
Actor: Matheson, William
Actor: Smith, Edwin
Director: Maynard, Virginia
Producing Organization: pacifica radio
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Writer: Maynard, Virginia
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-19-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:20
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Chicago: “American woman in fact and fiction; The tree of knowledge,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 23, 2024,
MLA: “American woman in fact and fiction; The tree of knowledge.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 23, 2024. <>.
APA: American woman in fact and fiction; The tree of knowledge. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from