Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sara Burke speaks at NU, Friday, November 16

An announcement from Dr. James Murton:

The History Department Seminar Series continues with Dr. Sara Burke, Chair of the History Department at our sibling institution, Laurentian University, speaking on "Dancing into Education? The Impact of World War I on University Women in Ontario."

Dr. Burke is a specialist in the history of higher education in Canada. In this paper, she considers how and why the growing presence of women on university campuses in the 1920s was accompanied by "the increased academic segregation of women within feminized programs such as education, social work and household science" (full abstract below).

Time and Place: Friday, November 16, 2:30 pm, Rm A224.

Refreshments will be served.

Abstract:

Many Canadian academics believed the impact of the Great War to be cataclysmic, and their writing evokes a wistful nostalgia for the university world they had known as undergraduates – a nostalgia mixed with distaste for the seemingly frivolous objectives of the flapper generation. There was much to condemn in the post-war climate, but a significant number of contemporaries focused their discontent on the new class of women undergraduates. The cluster of ills plaguing campus culture by the 1920s was due primarily, they implied, to the over-prominence of women in university affairs during the War, and to the growing numbers of coeds who transformed Ontario’s campuses after 1919. This paper argues that the perceptions of contemporaries concerning the 1920s have the potential to distort our understanding of the prewar period, and in particular, to magnify the impact of World War I on the history of women’s higher education in Canada. That the 1920s represented a period of change in women’s education is beyond doubt, yet it is more helpful to explore the roots of those changes in the period immediately before the War than in the artificial hiatus the War produced in academic life. For historians, the 1920s are notable for two parallel developments: the emergence of a distinctly co-educational culture, which promoted an unprecedented degree of social contact between the sexes, and the increased academic segregation of women within feminized programs such as education, social work and household science. This paper seeks to explain these developments – the growing concerns over the assertive presence of women students and the accompanying movement toward separate forms of education – in the unsettled controversies that marked the history of co-education in Canada during the period preceding the War.


Update: Dr. Burke's presentation raised some very interesting issues, which she handled extremely well in the following Q&A.

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