Going to Seminary | Part 7

by Elouise

1973 Sep Altadena Family Pic 2

Altadena, California style, Sept 1973. Dresses by Elouise; D’s tie by a friend.

Nothing like the experience I describe in Part 5 and Part 6 ever happened again. Going to seminary, and to Fuller Seminary in particular, was the most wonderful thing I could have done at that time of my life.

Nonetheless, this post is also about hard stuff. The kind that ‘grew me up.’ It was great that we women were there—all 30 of us that first year. Up to more than 50 my second year. Still, it was too bad that just being in the classroom and being good citizen students didn’t resolve everything.

Our women’s support group met regularly. Over time we figured out what we needed, though we didn’t yet have a clue how we would get it. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

It’s now fall 1974, the beginning of my second year. At this point I know I’m more than capable of succeeding at seminary. I also know I might want to enroll in a Ph.D. program someday. I’ve talked to D about this, and have a zillion questions.

One day I see a poster at the seminary. A faculty member is having an informational session for all students interested in earning a Ph.D. after they finish their master’s level degrees.

This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!  One of my women friends is also interested. She also has two children and a husband. We decide to attend the meeting together.

When we arrive there are about 15 other students in the room, all male. We take our seats near the front, side by side. Our male professor stands up and, for at least 20 minutes, describes what we all need to think about if we wish to complete Ph.D. studies. My friend and I take careful notes.

During the Q and A session, a student asks the professor to sum up his most important advice for anyone wishing to complete a Ph.D. degree. He agrees, and gives us his list of best practices, if not absolute requirements.

Here’s what I can’t forget, no matter how hard I try:

  • If you aren’t married, don’t get married before you complete your Ph.D. degree.
  • If you do marry, make sure your wife makes a good salary. You’ll need her resources, along with any scholarship aid you receive, to pay your way and later pay off your graduate loans.
  • Be sure your wife doesn’t get pregnant while you’re doing your Ph.D. work. (I can’t overstate how much he emphasized this point.) She needs to keep working, and bring in money to help support the two of you, even if you get a graduate teaching assistantship. You need to concentrate on your studies.
  • If you’re married and already have children, be sure your wife doesn’t get pregnant again until you complete your program and are gainfully employed so you can begin paying off your student loans.
  • If you study abroad, it’s crucial for you to have a strong relationship with your dissertation director. If necessary, take the initiative. The bond between you and your Doktorvater is the most important asset you can have if you wish to complete a Ph.D. abroad. If you’re invited to his home, accept the invitation.

My friend and I keep taking notes. We glance in stupefied wonder at each other and suppress our laughter and our anger. Is he suggesting we should just forget it, or that this isn’t for women? It seems there aren’t any female mentors or female students in his world, and that he doesn’t understand what it’s like for women in academia.

We didn’t say a word about this or ask questions during the meeting. We just kept taking notes. Then we debriefed everything and compared notes. At the next meeting of our women’s support group, we made our report.

But what could we women do about this?

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 December 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, September 1973, Altadena, CA