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Cover of History of Education

History of Education

Volume 34, Issue 4, Jul 2005
Pages 387-405

  • DOI: 10.1080/00467600500129583
  • Print ISSN: 0046-760X
  • Online ISSN: 1464-5130

‘Special strengths for their own special duties’: women, higher education and gender conservatism in late Victorian Britain

School of Social Sciences , University College Northampton

The article discusses contributions towards female higher education made by a group of women whose views on gender roles were conservative, rather than feminist or suffragist. Four women's conservative ideals and interconnected work for women's education are reviewed in the context of late Victorian Oxford. This study is prefaced by a discussion of historical literature on women's higher education which concludes that twentieth century feminist historians have sometimes downplayed the role of reformers who deliberately disassociated women's educational reform from the advance of gender equality. A study of conservative reformers complicates definitions both of feminism and anti‐feminism, and provides an important reminder of the broader intellectual and political contexts which produced them both.