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Coordinate Colleges for American Women

A Convergence of Interests, 1947-78


Linda C. Morice

Coordinate Colleges for American Women: A Convergence of Interests, 1947–78 explores the history of the coordinate college—a separate school of higher learning for women connected to an older, all-male institution. This book places special emphasis on three (previously all-male) liberal arts colleges located in the Midwest and upstate New York. They established women’s coordinate colleges in the years following World War II, but ended them by 1980, becoming fully coeducational. The author draws on new primary sources to show that, in each case, a coordinate college was created to meet the converging interests of the founding institution—not to improve the education of women. The work is set in the context of four major social movements during the mid-to-late twentieth century involving civil rights, student rights, antiwar protest, and women’s liberation.

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Chapter 2. The World Turned Upside Down


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One cannot understand the role women played in American life during the second half of the twentieth century—or recognize the challenges they faced in accessing higher education—without considering the effects of World War II. The global conflict upended American institutions of higher learning. When German troops attacked Poland on September 1, 1939 (and France and Britain responded by declaring war against Germany), the United States maintained a position of official neutrality. Two years later, many U.S. college students were stunned to learn that their country had been attacked by Germany’s ally, Japan—and would soon join the combatants.2

War Clouds Over Campus

On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, all U.S. Navy ships near Hawaii received an “urgent” radiogram: “AIRRAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NO DRILL.” Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, sent the message minutes after Japanese planes from six aircraft carriers began bombing the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. Less than two hours later, over 2,400 people were dead and many more wounded in an attack that propelled the United States into World War II.3 ← 39 | 40 →

Student reactions to the bombing varied on U.S. college campuses. At the University of Illinois, an urgent news bulletin interrupted regular radio programming to inform listeners of the Pearl Harbor attack. Students milled about the campus and greeted the information “almost with relief,...

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