“We cannot change the world but we can change the people in it.” The Eleanor Bumstead Stevenson Papers

Document 1: Diary Entry on Love and Marriage     |     Introduction to Documents 2 & 3
Document 2: 21 November 1924, Eleanor to Bill Stevenson     |     Document 3: 17 November 1925, Bumpy to Bill Stevenson
Document 4: Girl Trouble and Divorce     |     Document 5: “The Soldier Takes a Wife”
Document 6: Recreational Program     |     Document 7: Fair Employment Practices Council and Democracy
Document 8: Women’s Group Tea     |      Document 9: The Weaker Sex      |      Document 10: PAUW the Challenge to Education Today
Document 11: Making Use of Their Education     |      Document 12: Letter of Condolence      |     Bibliography

Document 11: Making Use of Their Education

Title: Eleanor Stevenson in 1959
Title: Eleanor Stevenson in 1959
Source: Subgroup II. Eleanor B. Stevenson papers, Series 6. Photographs, Box 2. Stevenson Papers, RG 30/219, O.C.A.

Author: Eleanor Stevenson

Title: Making Use of Their Education

Date: unknown

Location: Subgroup II. Eleanor B. Stevenson papers, Series 4. Honors and Miscellaneous Personal Papers, Box 1. William and Eleanor Stevenson Papers, RG 30/219. O.C.A.

Document Type: Handwritten document


This speech on the importance of women continuing their education, or pieces of it, appears in many variations within Eleanor Stevenson’s writings, suggesting that it was likely a favorite topic for her. As with her previous speech, this document deals with the role of women in society, and in particular emphasizes the importance of their influence on children and the home. It also discusses the history of women’s rights as Eleanor sees them; though she acknowledges that women have fought a long struggle for equal rights that continues even now, for the most part she feels that women have been granted equal rights with men. Her gender essentialism, and her views on the complementary natures of men and women here prevent her from advocating more strongly for women’s inclusion outside the home. While she insists women are as capable of doing important work as men, she stresses the critical role women play within the home, and suggests that women should focus on pursuing activities that allow them to both improve their community and remain at home with their children.

Of particular interest is the final paragraph of this speech, in which Bumpy establishes herself as a woman who has been able to have a fulfilling impact on the world while still being the primary caregiver for her daughters. In using herself and Bill as role models for what men and women’s lives should be, Eleanor reveals her profoundly gendered vision of a utopian society.



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I thought I would like to explore with you the roll [sic] of women in present day society and in particular how they can make the best use of their education after they leave school or college. It is a difficult problem I think -there are no easy answers- no well defined rules – each individual has to work it out for herself – has to play by ear so to speak but I don’t think we ever lose the deep desire to play a [inserted above the line: really] constructive roll [sic] in the life of the family (most important of all when the children is growing up [sic]) the community and if possible in the country and the world. Woman power can be a tremendous force for good and for [inserted above the line: world] peace and educated woman power an even greater one

Recent statistics in the U.S. show quite an increase in the no [sic, number] of women in higher education

Out of a total of 2,881,000 students over 900,000 are women – in 1940 there were only 600,000[1]

33% of the Bachelor of Arts degree go to women

33% “ “ Master of Arts 10% of the P.H.D.s [sic]

The above figures are the result of a long hard struggle which has been going on for over 100 yrs. In the past as you know women had no political- educational or economic freedom -marriage transfered all a [inserted with a carrot: womans] rights to her husband. In 1848 they held the first Nat’l [sic] Convention for Womens Rights[2] in the U.S. and demanded equality in education – economic opportunity, law & franchise. They drew up a “Declaration of Sentiments”[3] which was met with ridicule & jeers from the press and from men and women every where and as you know it was not until 1920 after an amendment to our Constitution[4] that women began to enjoy complete equality with men. After such [inserted with a carrot: a] long hard struggle it is only natural that women everywhere are concerned with how they can make the very best use of this emancipation. Actually of course the battle is still going on in many countries and many people still believe that we are the “Weaker Sex” but this is pure myth – there is no basis for the notion that women are biologically inferior to men- in fact quite the opposite is true (some man in a moment of insecurity [inserted with a carrot: at the moment of our emancipation] must have started the rumor) I thought you might be interested & amused by some recent findings -Card-[5]

So you see that fine theory is exploded

After leaving school or college there are 3 possibilities [inserted with a carrot: for a woman] a career- marriage or marriage and a career. Students in the U.S. often hold seminars & panel discussion on the possible activities which can be continued with homemaking and motherhood. They fully realize that the most vital contribution is the raising of the next generation but they still want to make use of their knowledge & judgement  & sense of value [inserted with a carrot: which they have acquired in] school outside the home through working with the different organizations in a community. They hope they can keep in practice – keep their mental elasticity as it were

Church Groups



Political Groups

Welfare Agencies

Community Recreation Programs[8]

Adult Education-  more and more is being done in this field – education must be a continuing process throughout life – we can’t learn in 18 or 22 or 32 yrs all that a constantly changing world demands we know or know how to do. Continuing education is a necessity if we want to meet & solve the complex problems of the world today.

There is also the uncertainty as to what individuals future will – In my case – first the wife of a [illegible] lawyer – then a Red Cross worker overseas in WWII next a wife of a College Pres. and now a member of the Foreign Service. What education I had certainly has been a great help [inserted with a carrot: to me] despite my daughters evaluation of my four years of college[9] – “My Mother doesn’t know anything”

By way of example may I digress a moment and give you a brief sketch of [inserted above line: what I call] the Life of a Wife of [inserted above line: a College Pres.] Many times I thought my daughter was right when I was trying to live up to the many responsibilities of that position.


[1] These statistics were difficult to check, however, it is very much true that the number of women in college and seeking post-graduate degrees increased dramatically from 1940 to the 1960s (“Women Are Dominating Men at College. Blame Sexism.” Washington Post. Accessed 8 July 2016. Source.

[2] This is generally known as the Seneca Falls Convention, held in Seneca Falls, New York, in July of 1848. It was led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who are seen as some of the founders of the moment for women’s suffrage in the United States, and are important figures in First Wave American Feminisms (“Seneca Falls Convention | United States History | Britannica.com.” Accessed 8 July 2016. Source).

[3] The Declaration of Sentiments created at Seneca Falls was based on the Declaration of Independence, and called for the rights of American women as citizens of this country. While document detailed many aspects of the way women were oppressed under the government of the United States, including unfair divorce laws, lack of property rights, and limited opportunities for employment and education, the most publicized and contentious aspect of the Declaration was the resolution for woman suffrage. This aspect was seen as the most radical proposal by many women, and was widely ridiculed in the press (“Declaration of Sentiments | 1848 | Britannica.com.” Accessed 8 July 2016. Source).

[4] This would be the 19th Amendment, which granted women suffrage. In practice, given segregation, Jim Crow laws, and voter suppression, the 19th Amendment allowed white women to vote, but did little to actually enfranchise women of color.

[5] See Document 9 for the list of statistics that is likely being referenced here.

[6] Parent Teachers Association. The National Branch was founded in 1897, and was originally the National Congress of Mothers (“National PTA History – About PTA – National PTA.” Accessed 8 July 2016. Source).

[7] League of Women Voters. The League was founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt after the passage of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right of suffrage. It was designed to help women carry out “their new responsibilities as voters.” The League remains an active grassroots advocacy group today. The organization itself is nonpartisan, but its members are encouraged to be politically active (“History.” League of Women Voters. Accessed 8 July 2016. Source).

[8] See Document 6.

[9] Stevenson had attended Smith College. Her daughter Priscilla attended Oberlin.