Women in the Profession

Evelyn Edson, October 2010

Editor's Note: Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should ideally be brief and should be sent to Letters to the Editor (or mailed to Letters to the Editor, Perspectives on History, AHA, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889) along with full contact information. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.

Women in the Profession

To the Editor:

I was interested to read Robert Townsend’s analysis on women in the historical profession in the May issue and find no mention of two-year colleges. When I earned my doctorate in history in 1972, my only job offer came from a community college. I spent 34 satisfying years there, and in the course of my work met numerous highly qualified female professors of history teaching at other community colleges. That was a time when four-year colleges and universities were not eagerly recruiting women. Our omission from this official report indicates to me the continuing invisibility of faculty at the two year colleges despite various attempts at outreach by the AHA.

Two-year colleges were also excluded from the report on faculty salaries in the same issue. I can assure you that full professors at these institutions are making significantly less than those listed in your chart.

When the Association asks, “What do community college teachers want?” I suggest that we want to be recognized for our work as a vital part of the history profession.

—Evelyn Edson 
Piedmont Virginia Community College

Robert Townsend writes: The absence of two-year faculty in the essay is the result of a lack of information, not of a lack of interest or concern about community college faculty members in the discipline. Regrettably, my efforts to elicit information from two-year colleges over the years have invariably met in failure. I have never received responses from more than 17 percent of the two year colleges I ever tried to survey, which makes it next to impossible to report on with statistically valid results. And our efforts (together with other interested organizations) to press the Department of Education to use its authority to capture this information have met with similar disappointment. I deeply regret that we were not able to provide more information on faculty in two-year institutions and we will continue to look for new sources of information.