Women in the Superintendency: A Study of Accumulative Disadvantage
Academic Leadership - Online Journal,
Vol. 4 No. 2 (2003): Vol-4-Issue-2-February-2003
Ella Flagg Young became the first woman superintendent of the Chicago schools in 1909 (Blount,
1998). Young’s enthusiasm for women’s school leadership reflected the palpable momentum among
women activists at the time. After all, in a mere 50 years women had progressed from having few
means of employment outside the home to dominating their new profession of teaching, accounting for
around 70 percent of all teachers by 1900 (Blount, 1998).
In the early decades of the twentieth century, thousands of women succeeded in attaining school
leadership positions (Blount, 1999). During this time school districts added formal bureaucratic
structures and administrative layers, a trend that resulted in a proliferation of administrative positions.
Women moved into positions, becoming lead teachers, teaching principals, supervisors, mid-level
administrators, sometimes ultimately superintendents (Blount, 1998).