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Marion Talbot

As a department chairman and dean for more than thirty years, Talbot directed women's activities on campus and defended the expanding role of women in academic life.



Talbot letter to Harper

Marion Talbot to William R. Harper, November 9, 1904.

Talbot's inclusive view of society emphasized equal opportunity rather than differential treatment of men and women. When it was suggested that women faculty members escort Jane Addams to the platform to deliver a convocation address, Talbot was quick to express her disapproval.


Marion Talbot | Household Administration

0ne of the most important commitments made by the founders of the University of Chicago was to equal educational opportunities for men and women at the new institution. Marion Talbot, head of the Department of Household Administration and Dean of Women, constantly reminded the three presidents under whom she served of that pledge.

Marion Talbot held firm convictions about education and the role of women in education. One of only a handful of women in American university administration, she advised female students at the University of Chicago to take full advantage of their academic opportunities. Always concerned about the distracting temptations of campus life, she urged women to limit their involvement in extracurricular activities and cultivate a strong sense of culture. In assuming a new role in society, women needed both personal self-confidence and the best professional education. Marion Talbot expected the University of Chicago to provide these in an environment in which they could be enhanced and developed.

Although Talbot advocated a continuing role for women in the home, her views were not traditional. Borrowing from progressive models of efficiency and scientific management and exploiting the new technology appearing at the time, modern women had the domestic tools to escape the drudgery of the past. Marion Talbot taught that a home could be "administered" in an effective way without compromising its vital role as a cultural hearth.

Crucial to this view was access to academic opportunity. When the University appeared to renege on its early promises of equal education by promoting sexually segregated instruction at the turn of the century, Talbot challenged the administration to abandon its plan. Later, she pointed out the inequity of preponderently male faculty appointments and the overwhelming focus on men in University events, eloquently and precisely identifying the problem and leaving no doubt as to a solution. Despite her reputation as an advocate for women, Talbot argued that equality should mean simply that and nothing else. She expected no more and no less than anyone else received. Her courses in household administration were specifically open to both men and women, and she criticized decisions that she felt patronized any specific group. Marion Talbot asked only that everyone be given equal opportunities, a goal she vigorously pursued.

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