Electronic Theses and Dissertations


God's Glass Ceiling: Women's Education in Christian Fundamentalist Higher Education Institutions

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in History

First Advisor

Charles R. Wilson

Second Advisor

Deirdre Cooper Owens

Third Advisor

Ted Ownby


Fundamentalists have historically held complex relationships with education and with women. This thesis examines the intersection of the three topics through a case study approach by looking at the education of women at fundamentalist institutions Bob Jones University, Liberty University, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Historically, fundamentalists have expressed great suspicion towards education and intellectualism. Fundamentalists insisted on a literal interpretation of the Bible. Moreover, they created fundamentalist universities and colleges so that parents could send their sons and daughters away to school without worrying that their children would abandon their faith. This thesis argues that fundamentalist schools approach the education of women in ways that are rife with paradox. These fundamentalist universities, by providing women with an education, empower them for future careers and provide them with an intellectual framework to navigate an increasingly complex world. Yet, the institutions also teach women to relinquish their aspirations to become pastors, to submit to the authority of their husbands, and to center their lives around their homes. Such an approach to the education of women by fundamentalists ultimately ensures men's retention of power within fundamentalism. Thus, educated and “modern” women no longer threaten their patriarchal fundamentalist schools, churches, and denominations.

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