Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Melinda Knight

Committee Member

Jessica Restaino

Committee Member

Emiliy Isaacs


English language--Composition and exercises--Study and teaching--Social aspects, Women college teachers, Women--Education (Higher), Sex discrimination in education--United States


This thesis paper reviews the history of women in the field of composition as a discipline, paying particular attention to the evolution of the role of the writing instructor. Today, first-year composition classrooms are staffed by a mostly contingent and female workforce, which is an ethical problem for writing programs and English departments. As in the larger workforce, service-oriented careers like teaching tend to be underpaid and characterized by deference to the experts, who are in the position of authority. While this scheme seems to have functioned for housewives and breadwinners in the 1950s, in today’s dual-earner couple it is unsustainable to perpetuate a pay structure that mirrors what housewives in the 1950s typically earned, at about 25% pay and part-time. Additionally, this thesis paper explores the implications of outcomes for the first-year composition course including recommendations for change, and implications for future generations of continuing with this gendered past.

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