Women's History at OSU

Photograph: Women Students at OSU, 1890
Women Students at OSU, 1890

Photograph: Ruth Loving Higgins, 1940
Ruth Loving Higgins, 1940

Photograph: Helen Edmonds, 1972
Helen Edmonds, 1972

History of Women's History at OSU

OSU was one of the first universities to offer courses in Women's History. Warren Van Tine, Carol R. Loss, and Mavis E. Mate taught the first Women's History course in 1971. Since then, women's history has been offered every year. Women's History was first offered as a field for graduate study in 1978 when Leila Rupp joined the OSU Department of History. Because Dr. Rupp specialized in European and U.S. History, the Women's History program has had a transnational requirement since its inception. As the program has grown and expanded, numerous graduate students have received advanced degrees in Women's History. The Women's History faculty continues to be among the most diverse and acclaimed within the field. Additionally, from 1996-2004, OSU housed the Journal of Women's History.

History of Women as Graduate Students as OSU

Since the founding of OSU in 1873, women have always been well represented as students at the university. The second person to earn a doctorate at OSU was Lucy Adelaide Booth, who earned her Ph.D. in U.S. history in 1894. Booth was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. at OSU, and also the first person to earn a History Ph.D. (although at the time, the history department was combined with the political science department). In 1920s, the history department was established as its own entity, and the second person to earn a doctorate under the independent department was Ruth Loving Higgins, who earned her degree in 1926 and went on to become dean of Beaver College in Jenkintown, PA.

In 1946, the History Department awarded a Ph.D. to Helen Edmonds, who was the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at OSU. Edmonds went on to join the faculty at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), where she stayed until her retirement in 1977. At NCCU, she served as a Professor of History, Chair of the History Department, and the Dean of the Graduate School. Edmonds was also the first African American woman to serve as Dean of a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the United States and the first African American woman to second the nomination for President of the United States, which she did in 1956 for Dwight D. Eisenhower at the Republican National Convention.

In addition to her academic career, Edmonds dedicated her life to public service. Under the Eisenhower administration, she traveled throughout Europe and Africa for the State Department speaking on behalf of the American government. She also served as an alternate delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in 1970; a member of the National Advisory Council of the Peace Corps; the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Armed Services; the National Advisory Council to Education Professions Development of the U.S. Office of Education; the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; and a national chair of the Humanities Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. Edmonds returned to her alma mater in 1983, when she delivered the spring commencement address.

History of Women as Faculty Members at OSU

Cynthia U. Weld was the second woman to join the faculty of OSU when, in 1883, she was elected assistant professor of History and English literature. Weld served as chair of the Department of History and English from 1883 to 1885.  After Weld's tenure as head of the Department, no other female professors joined the faculty until 1955, when Mary E. Young came to OSU. Young was a well-respected member of the Department, teaching until her retirement in 1973. Similarly, Genevieve B. Gist joined the faculty in 1958. Through the 1960s and 1970s more and more women joined the faculty resulting in greater gender parity.

Prospective graduate students should visit the Graduate Studies in Women's History page for more information about studying women's and gender history at the Ohio State University.