West Virginia's Gendered Profession: School Administrators and Women in Education, c. 1863-1917

  • Allyson Perry West Virginia University
Keywords: Education, Teachers, Gender, Women, Feminization


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, more West Virginian women attended and worked in schools than ever before. Numerous historians have noted this flood of female students and teachers, commonly termed “the feminization of education.” It is rarely noted, however, how the predominantly male community of school administrators came to terms with this change. Many struggled to reconcile traditional gender norms with a changing economic and social climate. Male administrators interacted with, and attempted to define shifting gender roles in their published education journals and school histories. It is evident that many failed to accept women in leadership positions and frequently employed gendered stereotypes in their assessments. They discouraged upward mobility for female teachers and pupils and criticized the abilities and roles of educated women in the public sphere. In an effort to maintain traditional values in West Virginia’s modernizing society, male administrators both drew from, and created a gendered rhetoric that monitored femininity in the classroom.

Author Biography

Allyson Perry, West Virginia University
MA Candidate in History