Author takes students on feminist journey

By Chase Myers, @chasemyers_DE

Gender inequality was so prevalent in the 1950s, women at certain universities were not allowed to own keys to their own dorms. If they were not back by curfew, the school punished them. 

The fight for gender equality on college campuses has been a work-in-progress since the early 1940s, and even though the issues have changed, there is still a lack of symmetry. 

According to Merrian-Webster’s website, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. But, to Kelly Sartorius, co-chair of the Advanced Development for Deans, feminism historically means women’s rights to citizenship. 


Sartorius, who is also director of development at Washington University in St. Louis, will present from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in room 752 and 754 in the Morris Library.

Sartorius’ research in feminism focuses on the college atmosphere of men and women before the late 1960s.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of women’s access to graduate school, access to careers, sciences, engineering and business,” Sartorius said.

Many schools were separated into men’s colleges and women’s colleges in the early 20th century, especially in the northeast and southern schools, she said. 

She said women at large public schools in the West and Midwest were much more progressive, and most of them had co-education.

“They had separate student lives,” she said. “The women had a women’s building… but the place where [men and women] were always together in the West and Midwest was the classroom.”

Although this was more common during the turn of the 20th century, the same concept continued into the early 1960s, but in the form of career planners. She said men had blue sign-up papers and women had pink.


The blue papers would advise careers as professors or lab scientists, and the pink papers would be similar, but might suggest careers as lab assistants instead.

“It would have been totally normal in the 1950s to enroll students for chemistry 101 and fill up the class with all the men,” she said. “If there’s seven seats left, then you can enroll women.” 

Until Title IX was enacted in 1972, which amended the Higher Education Act of 1965 and removed exclusion based on sex, there was a dean of women for female students and dean of men for male students. 

Many people associate Title IX with athletic opportunities for women, but it also applies to academics. 

“The reason why they passed Title IX was so that women could apply to medical school and law school, because those were not equal,” she said. “It was not uncommon for law schools or medical schools to only accept a certain number of women.

One woman Sartorius believes heavily influenced the progression of gender equality was Emily Taylor, dean of women at Kansas State University from 1956 to 1974.

In Sartorius’ book “Deans of Women and the Feminist Movement,” she takes the reader through Taylor’s career and how she increased female citizenship by bringing female deans to the forefront of student affairs. 

The book is also highly discussed in associate professor Patrick Dilley’s various classes at SIU.  

“In Sartorius’ book, she shows how these deans of women were really engaged in an ongoing process that didn’t just start and stop,” said Dilley, who teaches in educational administration and higher education.

The Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality, as well as the Department of Educational Administration and Higher Education are sponsoring the presentation.

“Part of what I think is interesting about the research that I do is that it gives you a picture of what it was like for your grandmother to go to school, and how different it was,” Sartorius said.