Will Education Shrink a Woman’s Uterus?

Classes start this week for many students. In honor, I’ll raise this question: Does education shrink a woman’s uterus?

At one point this was a real worry. In 1873 Edward Clark of Harvard voiced his concern. In 1889 the renowned scientist R.R. Coleman cautioned university women, “You are on the brink of destruction… Beware!! Science pronounces that the woman who studies is lost.”

Scientists fretted because the more education a woman gained the fewer children she bore. They hadn’t imagined the most obvious cause: That educated women simply put off marriage and childbearing.

Who knows how many women were discouraged from education from such silly concerns.

Worries about weak minds were accompanied by worries about weak bodies: Some 19th Century doctors explained that corsets were needed because women’s bodies were too frail to adequately hold themselves up.

Uneven bars were invented for women gymnasts, who were thought to need rest between each move.

Moral of the story:

Don’t make judgments, scientific or otherwise, that assume biology lies behind social patterns and stereotypes.

Think we don’t do this today?

I’ve already written about Hugh Hefner’s assumption that women are naturally sex objects.

Notions that women lack ability in science or math are still bandied about, while evolutionary psychology is accepted by most.

Yet each of these notions is based on stereotypes and social patterns that vary by culture. They are not biologically based.

Details to come!

Georgia Platts


Goodman, Ellen, “Anxiety Reigns As Women Pull Ahead On Campus.” San Jose Mercury News. September 3, 2002

Smith, Barbara Clark and Kathy Piess. Men and Women: A History of Costume, Gender, and Power. Smithsonian Institution. 1989


About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 16, 2010, in feminism, gender, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I find this a really interesting post. I agree that there is no biological connections between the uterus shirinking and education. Women with higher levels of education or women who go to college are more educated about things such as birth control and safe sex, they are also more educated about the hardships and the challenge, both emotionally and financially aout raising children. Therefore, a woman who goes to college is more likely to focus more on her career first beforoe thinkig of settling down and having children. Since our culture is extremely patriarchal, I think they make up connections like uterus shrinking to just basically make women more underprivileged and they do not want women to be able to be as educated as a man is.

  2. Obviously, the part about the uterus shrinking is ridiculous, I don’t understand how “professionals” and otherwise “intelligent” people sometimes make claims founded on nothing. However, it is not unreasonable to think that there are indeed differences based on biology and genetics. The same genes that make us physically different could also make us mentally capable of different things. It is harder for women to enter math and science because historically, it has been progressed mostly by men. However, when it comes to things like spatial reasoning, some believe that men are simply better than women, say at turning a house around in their heads. However, this could of course be because men play with Legos when younger. Neither possibility should be ruled out. At the same time, women are thought better at empathy and connecting with the other. These kinds of things could be the result of the fact that men have more neurons in the brain, while women have more connections between the neurons.

  3. Well you have done it again Georgia, hit the nail right on the head! They are culturally not biologically based.

    We have much to unearn about women!

    • I meant to write Un LEARN. we have much to relearn would probably be the correct term but I was playing with words. I was attempting to make a point about what we think we know about women and the few catagories we place the in as a result.

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