In 1880, forty-three women walked into the president's office at the University of Kentucky (UK) and signed the student register, becoming the first female students at a public college in the commonwealth. But gaining admittance was only the beginning. For the next sixty-five years -- encompassing two world wars, an economic depression, and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment -- generations of women at UK claimed and reclaimed their right to an equitable university experience. Their work remains unfinished.
Drawing on yearbooks, photographs, and other private collections, Our Rightful Place: A History of Women at the University of Kentucky, 1880--1945 examines the struggle for gender equity in higher education through the lens of one major institution. In the face of shifting resistance, pioneering women constructed opportunities for themselves. Terry L. Birdwhistell and Deirdre A. Scaggs highlight three women -- Sarah Blanding, Frances Jewell McVey, and Sarah Bennett Holmes -- who fought to secure basic facilities that were denied to UK women for decades, including housing and study spaces. By examining the trials and triumphs of UK's first female undergraduates, faculty, and administrators, this book uncovers the lasting impact women had on higher learning in the early days of coeducation.
" Our Rightful Place combines archival documents and rare period piece photographs to enhance our understanding of women as academic pioneers at the University of Kentucky. It also fills significant gaps about regional history and higher education in the South. Scaggs and Birdwhistell bring to life the contributions of women as members of the campus community at the University of Kentucky during the crucial decades from 1880 to 1950." -- John R. Thelin, author of A History of American Higher Education, third edition
"Scaggs and Birdwhistell highlight the challenges that women at the University of Kentucky faced and the difficult choices they made, and in doing so, reveal how these women operated within gendered frameworks that they both challenged and reified." -- Carolyn Dupont, author of Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975
"Birdwhistell and Scaggs offer a valuable, woman-centered view of the University of Kentucky's early history. Stretching over seven decades, grounded in oral history, and filled with colorful stories of individual women, Our Rightful Place provides readers a tantalizing peek into the day-to-day experiences of the women who worked and studied at Kentucky's flagship university, documenting their efforts to carve out a space for themselves." -- Melanie Beals Goan, author of Mary Breckinridge: The Frontier Nursing Service and Rural Health in Appalachia
"Birdwhistell and Scaggs bring to life the stories of strong women, like Frances Jewell McVey and Sarah Blanding, who led the first seven decades of white public coeducation in Kentucky. These women carved new spaces for females in housing and student life as well as faculty members and institutional leaders. Although many challenges remained in 1950, the women chronicled here laid the foundations of UK's coeducation, including career training and inter-collegiate basketball." -- Judi Jennings, co-editor of Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia and author of Why Work?