MYTHS OF CO-EDUCATION: Selected Essays, 1964-1983 by Florence Howe

MYTHS OF CO-EDUCATION: Selected Essays, 1964-1983

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As a former president of the Modern Languages Association and current publisher of the Feminist Press, Howe (American Studies, SUNY Old Westbury) has emerged as a leading defender of women's studies in the universities. These collected essays and addresses, many already widely reprinted, will reassure old converts by recalling shared battles and victories. They may not win new ones, however, for Howe's analysis of this new field is surprisingly vague. Redundancies abound. Howe repeatedly recalls her own schooling: denying her working-class Jewish background and gender while at Hunter; giving potato pancake parties during graduate school at Wisconsin. "". . .In spite of eight years of hard study, what I wanted was to marry a professor, to be a professor's wife, to cook a professor's dinners. . ."" Consciousness dawns, Howe parts company with husband, gains inspiration in the Mississippi Freedom Schools which she applies to feminism. Yet her efforts to inspire others have a stale ring. Her defense of women's colleges hinges on the realization that ""the center of consciousness in an educational institution is the curriculum,"" while her attack on existing coed establishments focuses on the myth ""that if women are admitted to men's education and treated exactly as men are, then all problems of sexual equity will be solved."" In her recent (1983) address on American Literature and Women's Lives, she presents the ""hypothesis"" that ""the white male literary canon sustains and encourages no women,"" and, in a 1975 essay on Feminism and the Education of Women, she applauds the idea that a ""sizeable number"" of women are now prepared to ""turn the procession [of educated men] at least half an inch off course."" But what new direction women-studies activists are taking remains unclear, save for reference to sharing syllabi and ideals. A limited documentary source for a discipline in the making--for the intellectual ferment see rather Anne Firor Scott's Making the Invisible Woman Visible (p. 408) or Juliet Mitchell's Women: The Longest Revolution (p. 621).

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press