Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Frances Harrold

Second Advisor

Diane Willen


The histories of Presbyterian-related Agnes Scott, Baptist-related Shorter, and Methodist-controlled Wesleyan illustrate how white liberal arts, non-public schools in Georgia developed into accredited colleges during the Progressive Period. Northern Baptist-related Spelman's story tells how a black woman's seminary with a college level annex (associated with all-male Morehouse) was able to educate Negro women in the same time period, in the same state. The study briefly surveys the historical development of each school up to 1900 and compares and contrasts the relationships of the colleges and their respective "home towns" of Macon, Rome, Atlanta, and Decatur in 1900.

For the period 1900 to 1920 the study examines the four schools' characteristics and nature of their student bodies and faculties, their changing progressive curricula, their extracurricular activities (especially the YWGA and the Student Volunteer Movements), and the careers and achievements of alumnae in the 1900-1920 cohort. Eight women's biographies (two from each college) are sketched in full to illustrate the impact of their education on their lives. The study looks at the effects of the colleges' Christian goals and church connections and of their dependence on philanthropy.

Comparisons are made between black and white women's education and between the southern women's colleges and the northeastern Seven Sisters. The whole study is set in the historical context of the Progressive Period, World War I, and womens' changing roles and attitudes. It describes the shift, during this period, in the roles of educated southern women from "the lady" associated with "true womanhood" and "the cult of domesticity" to the emerging "new woman" associated with careers and economic independence.

The history of women's education in the South has not been researched as much as female education in the northeast, and the story of Negro women's liberal arts education has not been factored into the overall story of women's education in America. Therefore this study offers new insights and data with significance for the whole story of American women's education.


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