Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Barbara Steinson


Oberlin (OH), Oberlin College, Co-education, Women, James Fairchild


Oberlin College is frequently mentioned in connection with women's education, women's rights, or the struggle for women's emancipation. The following passage from the 1834 First Circular is invariably cited: Oberlin's founders strove for"… the elevation of female character, by bringing within the reach of the misjudged and neglected sex, all the instructive privileges which hitherto have unreasonably distinguished the leading sex from theirs." Discussions seek to prove either that Oberlin is to be praised for its correct and "liberated" goals, or that it is to be condemned for hypocrisy in not going as far as publicized in the First Circular.

A brief survey of the literature concerning women at Oberlin clarifies what is lacking in the analysis. One strand of thought applauds the coming of coeducation for opening up new paths for American women. James Fairchild, at various times student, teacher, and president of Oberlin College, found himself the defender of Oberlin's experiment, and of coeducation in general. Twenty years after criticizing women who spoke in public, he became the spokesman for coeducation, on the grounds that it worked."

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