Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society

Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.

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Lucile Eaves

Unfortunately as with many women in the social science fields, their work and contributions have been swept under the rug, until one day, someone pulls out their accomplishments and gives them the acknowledgement they deserve. Lucile Eaves was one of those women. Her small contributions have helped pave the way to many reforms that are enjoyed today. She was a sociologist and an advocate at heart, which led her to work for the betterment of women and children. In this paper, the intent is to give the reader a more in depth look at the work Lucile Eaves has done.

On January 9, 1869 in Leavenworth Kansas, David William and Anna Cowman Weir Eaves gave birth to their daughter, Lucile Eaves. There hasn't been much documented history about her childhood, only that she had one sister and that sister would remain in Eaves care for the remainder of her life. There is a lot known about her adulthood however. Eaves attended high school at Peoria High School in Peoria, Illinois. After graduating, she took various teaching jobs for the first five years out of high school. One of the first teaching jobs in her career was close to home where she taught elementary school in Peoria for a year. She then decided to move to Lapwai, Idaho where she taught in an industrial school for the Nez Percec Indians for three years. In the last year she moved on to Portland, Oregon where she taught in a public school for a year.

In 1892 while she was teaching in Portland, the doors literally opened up for Lucile Eaves when the Leland Stanford Jr. University opened its doors to women students. Because she wanted to continue her education, Eaves was one of the first women to join this University. She finished at the University in 1894 after receiving her bachelor's degree. Having an interest for history, Eaves decided to move to San Diego, California and for the next four years worked as head of the history department at San Diego High School. In 1898, having a thirst for knowledge, she soon was on the road again studying at the University of Chicago. At the University of Chicago, she took an interest to sociology, economics and philosophy. Eaves studied there for a year, but was soon on the move again when in 1899 she became a history instructor at Stanford University. Wanting to pursue her newfound interests, she returned to the University of Chicago and studied there in the summers of 1899 and 1900.

Eaves continued her work at Stanford University until 1901 when she lost it because of her public support of her colleague, E. A. Ross, whom had been previously fired. Out of somewhat financial desperation, Eaves accepted a position in San Francisco at the South Park Social Settlement. Eaves held the position of head resident worker and served 700-800 persons each week. She oversaw a variety of educational and recreational activities for the people of the neighborhood. She also took great care in developing a plan to teach children ethical lessons by way of illustrated stories.

Eaves was still not completely happy with her position in San Francisco and would have liked to continue her academic work, but if she took a new job she would have had to start her professional life over at another institute. So instead, she continued to work at the Settlement and while there, she worked closely with child labor and adamantly worked for a better state law, which was passed in 1905. Because of her involvement in this, she gained public recognition. After a period of time, Lucile grew restless again and wanted to pursue a doctorate in applied sociology. She felt this would greater her abilities as the leader of South Park Social Settlement, ironically she would never return to the Settlement. She was offered a scholarship at the University of Chicago, but she declined and instead studied at Columbia University with Franklin Giddings. In 1906, because of the San Francisco fires, Eaves returned to San Francisco to help in the relief work.

Eaves had a lot of compassion for the working people of California and their struggle to obtain legal protection and rights. Deciding to make a contribution, Eaves worked eighteen months and in 1907 finished her book A History of California Labor Legislation. Due to extensive research Eaves presents the legal acts that were brought about by the demands of the wage- worker, however she uses this as a last resort. She first tries to explain the circumstances that led wage-workers to their demands and tries to notice the events that led to the important changes of policy. Eaves presents two distinct social movements in California, which she hoped, would give future students a better understanding in other historical situations of social and economic development. First, there was the presence of different racial groups, who were incapable of meshing, which she believed led to economic competition. Secondly, Eaves concluded that the history of California could hopefully aid one, in the future, to trace the process of the development of social sanctions that are great in strength elsewhere.

A criticism of her work that was seen in the past as well as today was her support of the Chinese labor exclusion. Although it was a racist position, she saw it from the white working-class perspective, whom she had much sympathy for. In fact, her former colleague also held this opinion and was fired from Stanford University partly because of this. When Lucile supported him, she was forced to resign from her position at Stanford University also.

After finishing her book, in 1909, one of her previous colleagues, George Howard, hired her at the University of Nebraska as an associate professor of practical sociology. The following year she completed her Ph.D. in applied sociology. While working at the University of Nebraska, Eaves fell under financial pressure because of the farm she owned and the sister she cared for. She fought for more money and a promotion, unfortunately her wish was not granted. Eaves was unhappy at the University of Nebraska and in 1913 Eaves took up a position at the University of California lecturing in economics, but she soon returned to the University of Nebraska. Finally in 1915 she resigned from the University of Nebraska because of money problems.

Soon after that she found work in Boston at Simmons College. In 1921 she was promoted to associate professor and in 1925 she was promoted to full professor. Simmons graduate program was operated through the Women's Educational and Industrial Union and through this program, Eaves trained more than sixty students, mostly in social work. Out of this program, she and her students researched and published many articles and papers.

One of the things that Eaves focused on was the difficulties and the struggles women faced throughout their life. Whether in young age or old age, the disadvantages would follow them. She especially focused on women with disabilities. She felt for this population, they would be disadvantaged by their employment opportunities, pay and physical endurance for their entire life. Women with disabilities were an unknown or ignored population, because of that her research on women with disabilities was actually the earliest sociological analysis on the population. She also focused on the relation of the body to social functioning. She looked at the problems of health for the poor, people with cancer, children hurt in industrial accidents, the Flynn physical exercise, and even the analysis of food.

Eaves also did a study about young children and teenagers and their need for more recreational activities. The study titled, Seen From the Car Windows, was first thought of while she was traveling by train. She looked out her windows and noticed many young people loitering the train station. In the study, she advocated that parents and teachers need to get their children more involved in recreational activities and they need more suitable places for social interaction. She also emphasized the need for adult guidance of young people and the need for integration of young and older people. These she believed, would help to keep them out of trouble and become better social functioning people.

Lucile's interest in women's lives led her to a study titled, Old Age Support of Women Teachers. In this study she focuses her attention on the problems women teachers face when they retire. In her study Lucile went around to 150 active and retired Boston teachers for information on their plans for retirement. She also asked them on various teacher organizations and pension plans that they knew of. She also researched the history of these through school officials and officers.

In her study, Eaves argues that women teachers will be secure in old age depending on three things: the amount of salary they earn, the portion of earnings spent on themselves and dependents and the accumulation of savings throughout their life. In her study, based on these three principles, she concluded that many women teachers were not well prepared for in old age. Firstly, women teachers did not make high salaries, which led them to spend a larger percentage of their salary on basic living (food, clothing, housing). Because of this, women teachers were less able to save money for their retirement. Another financial setback women teachers faced was their role as caregivers, whether they had children of their own, sisters, or parents, they were usually the ones to care for them. Yet another problem women teachers faced is their lack of savings due to them thinking that they would leave the profession or get married. If their plan failed somehow, they were stuck without adequate savings. For Eaves, all of these things were a problem for women teachers including herself. For Eaves this study was more personal and her intend was to present a problem that most women teachers would have to face sometime in their life and make suggestions for what they should do.

One would think that Lucile Eaves career was maximized by the numerous colleges and universities she has worked with and has had little time for anything more. However, she has been involved in many organizations, including the American Sociological Society, the Committee to Standardize Research, which focused on an effort to make annual, national and cooperative studies part of the sociological field. She also served as a member of the American Economics Association, the Royal Economic Society, the American Association for University Women, the American Association for Social Workers, the American Association of University Professors, Phi Beta Kappa, and she also served as an associate editor to The Journal of Applied Sociology. From this extensive list, one can tell Lucile Eaves was a very active participant in sociology. She not only served as a member to all of these groups, she also had time to write numerous amounts of papers and a book on California Legislation. She also was very active in helping women and children with their struggles. Unfortunately her work is not documented enough and she does not get the recognition she deserves. If only one would searched in depth they would find a great amount of useful knowledge done by Lucile Eaves.


Deegan, M. (Eds.) Women in sociology: A bio-bibliographical sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press.

Eaves, L. (1910). A history of California labor legislation. Berkeley, CA: The University Press.

Eaves, L. (1921). Old-age support of women teachers. Boston: Women's Educational and Industrial Union.

White, J. et al. (Eds.). (1930). The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (Vol A). New York: James T. White & Company.

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