The Filson Historical Society and Cincinnati Museum Center
Nineteenth-century women gained access to significant higher education opportunities under the auspices of the urban, public high school (as well as at seminaries, academies, normal schools, and other variously named institutions) even when they did not matriculate into colleges proper. Women made great strides in all forms of higher education in the last half of the nineteenth century, but particularly in high schools and academies; while remaining underrepresented in colleges until 1978, women constituted a majority of graduates from high schools as early as 1870. This trend held true both nationally and in the local context of Louisville, where women outpaced men in high school graduation numbers eight to four in 1861 and by forty-two to twenty-nine by 1895. Still representing only a small minority of white women in the city, these early women high school graduates were envoys into higher education on behalf of their gender. Their high rates of matriculation and graduation were due at least in part to the impressive academic and professional opportunities granted to them at a time when other avenues to academic and professional advancement remained limited.
Lueck, A. (2017). “High School Girls”: Women’s Higher Education at the Louisville Female High School. Ohio Valley History, 17(3), 44–62.