28 Fantastic Vintage Photos Showing Daily Life of Female Students From Between the 1920s and 1950s

Coinciding with the beginnings of the first wave of feminism in the 19th century came the attempt by women to gain equal rights to education in the United States. Women’s rights organizations focused on adjusting and increasing women’s place in the public arena by arguing that the only fundamental differences between women and men were socially created ones, and thus women should be offered the same extensive and practical education that was offered to men.

After long battles against gender oppression women finally obtained the right to be educated through several government acts/conventions, the opening of facilities willing to educate them, and the opportunity to continue into higher education.

Education was a controversial topic in the 1930s, and sex-segregated school systems protected “the virtue of female high school students.” Home economics and industrial education were new elements of the high school curriculum designed for unmistakably women’s occupations. These classes taught women practical skills such as sewing, cooking, and using the new domestic inventions of the era; unfortunately, this “formal training offered women little advantage in the struggle for stable work at a liveable wage.”

The 1930s also saw tremendous changes in women’s education at the college level. In 1900, there were 85,338 female college students in the United States and 5,237 earned their bachelor’s degrees; by 1940, there were 600,953 female college students and 77,000 earned bachelor’s degrees. This increase was partially explained by the “contemporary discourse that reinforced the need for higher education for women in their positions as wives, mothers, citizens, and professionals.”

Members of the “Greenwich Village Follies” learning to become good cooks and bakers at the Mary Ryan Tea Room in Greenwich Village, New York, ca. 1925.
Madame Lubovska teaching student dancers from the National American Ballet school, August 1924.
Trainee fashion models learn how to carry themselves gracefully by balancing books on their heads at a school of modelling and deportment in the West End of London, 1925.
Lady detectives learning their trade. Mr. Kersey is showing them how to apprehend a suspect, April 1927.
Students at the Heatherley School of Art in Baker Street, London, painting a nude model in the portrait studio, November 1927.
A young woman taking flying lessons at Brooklands School, 1929.
Dancing school pupils practice en plein air at Worthing in East Sussex, May 1933.
A college student prepares to try out a small glider at the London Gliding Club on Dunstable Downs, 15th April 1933.
Students at a dance school dancing in front of a large, round mirror, ca. 1935.
A group of ladies learning “The Charleston” dance, March 1935.
International pupils at an outdoor physical education class at the English-Scandinavian Summer School in Milner Court, Sturry, Kent, 7th August 1935.
Two female members of a keep fit group learn boxing techniques as part of self defence lessons, 7th December 1935.
Glenn Erikson teaching pupils how to relax their throats for improved voice control, 1936. The Paramount actresses are Kay Gordon, Jane Rhodes and Jeanne Perkins who are all training for “Florida Special”.
Would-be skiers taking lessons from an Austrian ski champion in the gym, learning that suppleness is essential in skiing, 20th February 1936.
Lucie Clayton instructs pupils in the art of correct posture by balancing a glass and book on their heads at her finishing school in Old Cavendish Street, London, 25th November 1936.
A school girl from Pengworn Ladies College, Cheltenham learning tha art of balancing to cultivate good carriage in walking by balancing a plate on her head whilst standing on one leg on a pole and spinning a hoop with her knee! 14th December 1936.
A record number of students, a third of them girls, have enrolled for the winter session at the East Anglian Institute of Agricultural Studies in Chelmsford, Essex1st November 1937.
Trainee nurses examine a model of a human body to learn anatomy, 7th October 1938.
Students at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Bloomsbury, London, applying make-up backstage, 29th October 1938.
Undergraduates of Oxford University walking to lectures, well equipped with books, 6th November 1938
Four students at a Liverpool drama school enjoy a lesson in face-slapping, 4th February 1939.
Military training has been introduced to the schools in Budapest. Here the pupils of a girl’s school are issued with their arms, 4th February 1939.
One of the students shows a little more leg than necessary at a cricket match at the Goldsmith’s Art College end of term party in London. The theme of the occasion is “A Roman Holiday”
French university students dance the jitterbug in Paris, 1949.
18-year old London student Mercy Haystead enjoys a plate of spaghetti, whilst on holiday in Italy as an official guest of the town of Positano, September 1949.
18-year old London student Mercy Haystead on holiday in Italy as an official guest of the town of Positano, 24th September 1949.
Overseas students studying ballet at the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) Training Centre, London, 3rd November 1949. Left to right: Denise Shalovsky of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Felicia Zaymes and Valerie Goddard of South Africa. Shalovsky is training to teach ballet.
Three female students reading a book circa 1950s.

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