Advancing women in education: Colorado State Normal School and the University of Colorado, 1870-1920



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State normal schools were sites of and contributors to a major shift in American society from 1870 to 1920. At the beginning of the period, women’s role in society was legally, socially, and educationally enforced to be separate from and subservient to men’s role. The literature focuses on social movements, women’s roles, and histories of women’s colleges and state universities. However, very little exists exploring state normal schools, let alone the connections between state normal schools, women, and society. This study, therefore, addresses to what extent state normal schools contributed or reflected women’s advancement in education and society. Colorado State Normal School and the University of Colorado provided a case for investigating the experiences of women students and extrapolating larger patterns. State normal schools, although established to address practical needs for additional, better-prepared teachers across the country, fostered a growing challenge to social mores by women students and faculty. Throughout the period, the state normal schools provided the space and resources for women to learn, share, and connect with one another. Compared to state universities, state normal schools provided more enrollment and employment opportunities, developing a sense of group consciousness. Created to enforce and continue the assumed role of women as teachers (and only that), state normal schools significantly contributed to the overall advancement of women in education and society.

This thesis won 1st Place in the Texas Tech University Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award, Social Sciences, 2012.



Women education, Women’s history, Women teachers, Social movements, Social history, United States history, Teachers colleges, State Normal School of Colorado (Greeley, Colo.), University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado