Through the Back Door

  • Melissa Clark-Jones Bishop's University
  • Patricia Coyne Bishop's University


The legacy of early women university students is valuable as a marker of achieved social access, just as it provides the occasion for examining the individual and social consciousness of young women. Seventeen women admitted to a liberal arts program between 1912 and 1945 -- all of which graduated -- were interviewed. This study examines how they processed the cognitive dissonance of discrimination, by relying less upon an ideology than upon a delicate balance of ambiguity and creative myth-making. Though their descriptive recall about the facts of discrimination is nearly unanimous, so is their conscious semantic undermining of its meaning. Instead, they use myth-making to bridge gaps between ideology and status. Recently observed and utilized in psychotherapy, art and literature, myth is utilized here as a social tool that substitutes for alternative ideologies.
Original Research