Gender Equity Quiz: Would Your College Pass AAUW’s 1914 Accreditation Test?

August 25, 2015

Just because U.S. colleges finally started opening their doors to women in the 19th century doesn’t mean they offered women the same experience as men. After struggling to be admitted, many women had to put up with inferior resources, biased leadership, and fewer programs.

That’s why, from the early 20th century through the 1960s, AAUW individually accredited colleges and universities before their graduates could become members. To earn AAUW’s accreditation, schools needed to meet certain criteria that illustrated equitable treatment of women students and faculty. Though the main purpose of accreditation was to allow women graduates to become AAUW members, one of the secondary benefits was that it pressured universities to elevate their standards for women.

Would your college or university pass AAUW’s 1914 accreditation test? Find out! Give yourself one point for each yes, add them up, and see your results below.

1. “Are all courses of study open to women?”

Female students in drawing class at Street Hall, Yale School of Fine Arts. Image by Yale University Library

Yale University admitted its first women students in 1869, to the Yale School of Fine Arts, shown here c. 1905.

This may seem like a silly question now, but in 1914, this was a big problem. Some universities made satellite campuses for women (like Harvard University’s Radcliffe College) instead of allowing them to access the main university. Other schools would give women access to certain programs, like education or fine arts, and not allow them into the law or medical schools. While attending Johns Hopkins University in the 1890s, AAUW member Florence Bascom was forced to sit behind a screen so as not to “disrupt” male students. Still, she persevered and became the first U.S. woman to receive a doctorate in geology.

Similarly, 19th-century physiologist Ida Henrietta Hyde was forbidden to attend lectures or labs at her university and had to rely on two male lab assistants to take notes for her. Though we can take our own notes today (thanks, Title IX), women still have reduced access to certain fields — especially computer science and engineering — due to gender bias and sexism.

2. “Are there women members of the board of trustees?”

A group of men and women in black and white stand outside.

A committee from the board of trustees of the National Education Association in 1923. Image via Library of Congress

If a university is going to make decisions with women in mind, women must be represented on its board. Some boards of trustees have a reputation as “old boys’ clubs,” and this accreditation question was to help ensure that women were part of the conversation. Many schools and businesses still struggle with making their boards gender balanced today.

3. “Is there provision through halls of residence or other buildings for the social life of the women students?”

Women students reading and playing music by the fire at Miami University in 1919

Women students reading and playing music by the fire at Miami University in 1919. Image via Wikimedia Commons

This question is two-pronged: Are there residence halls available for women students, and is there a social structure for women at these schools? Even in 1914, AAUW was committed to helping improve women’s equality in all aspects of campus life. Today, we have more than 70 student organizations working to empower college women and fight for gender equity at campuses across the country. For this question, give yourself one point if your campus has a women’s center or AAUW student organization!

4. “Is there a gymnasium especially provided for the women students?”

Vintage photo of women on an outdoor basketball court

A women’s basketball game at Vassar College, c. 1913-14. Image via Library of Congress

This question tackles the issue of equal access. By 1914, women were starting to take part in more sports, with swimming, tennis, and basketball (to name a few) becoming more popular. Having a gym to practice these activities bolstered the academic woman’s overall well-being. Today, AAUW continues to advocate for women’s equity in sportsand so much more — through Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools.

5. “How many women are there on the faculty with a rank higher than that of instructor?”

Bertha Van Hoosen (left) was a 19th-century professor of clinical gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Bertha Van Hoosen (left) was a 19th-century professor of clinical gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School. Image via Wikimedia Commons

AAUW pushed colleges and universities to ensure women faculty had equal access to tenure and research opportunities. Part of this meant that colleges had to offer qualified women positions of real power. If men were made professors and women were only instructors, it showed that the school had a culture of prejudiced hiring practices. AAUW would also later criticize schools that only employed women professors in “pink-collar” professions, or female-dominated fields such as education and home economics that paid less than male-dominated ones. Today, AAUW continues to champion the rights and equality of women academics.

Give yourself a point if 20 percent or more of the faculty at your school are women.

Fun fact: In the original criteria, there was another question before this one — “How many women are there on the faculty with the rank of instructor?” This question targeted potentially sexist promotion practices at the university. It also showed how much the school supported women scholars: Unlike instructors, professors could be tenured and conduct research projects in their field.

6. “What is the relationship between the salaries given to women members of the faculty and those given to men of the same rank?”

Columbia faculty at commencement

Columbia faculty at commencement, 1908. Image via Library of Congress

Yes, even 100 years ago, AAUW was fighting for equal pay. Some universities seeking accreditation tried to tiptoe around this question. They argued that there was no written rule requiring equal pay — women just happened to be paid less — and that women weren’t applying to the same high-paid positions as men did. A century later, we still hear these false claims that prohibit equal pay, and our research continues to debunk them.

According to new data by the American Association of University Professors, male professors across a range of ranks and disciplines are paid $95,886 on average compared to $77,417 paid to female professors. Not cool. Do women faculty on your campus receive equal pay to men? If so, give yourself a point. Find out by checking the American Association of University Professors’ annual faculty salary survey, which includes a breakdown by gender.

7. “What is the academic rank of the dean of women? Does she give instruction in college classes?”

Marion Talbot pictured in an academic gap and gown

Marion Talbot was one of AAUW’s founders and dean of women at the University of Chicago.

Though having a dean of women fell out of practice around 1960, the role was meant to oversee aspects of daily life for women, including dormitories. What this questions asks, therefore, is whether or not the dean of women has equal power on campus to her male counterparts. For the purposes of this quiz, having a Title IX coordinator with an active role on campus is enough to earn you a point.

Fun fact: One of AAUW’s founders, Marion Talbot, was dean of women at the University of Chicago from 1895–1925, and former AAUW President Althea Kratz Hottel served as the first dean of women at the University of Pennsylvania from 1943 to 1959.

Did your school pass the test?

plus-icon TO EXPAND

0–2: Your school will not get accredited.

Your school does not meet the minimum requirements for accreditation and your alumnae will not have access to AAUW membership. You’re not alone though — even as recently as 1970, many schools across the country would not have passed due to lack of diversity or not admitting women at all. You’ll get another chance to apply in three years — enough time to make improvements!

3–5: Your school is on probation.

Your school is on probation and will need to show improvements in the near future in order to get accreditation. Schools were usually put on probation for not having equal access to facilities, not employing women faculty in a wide range of disciplines, or not allowing women access to certain academic programs.

6–7: Your school passes!

Congratulations! Your alumnae can now be a part of AAUW! Don’t get too comfortable, though. Your school will need to get reaccredited in three years and will need to show improvement to maintain accreditation.

Whether your school passed with flying colors or has its work cut out for it, there’s always room for improvement. Learn how your school can become an AAUW college or university partner and help create more opportunities for women.

This post was written by AAUW Archives intern Sheridan Sayles.




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AAUW Intern By:   |   August 25, 2015

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