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The importance of increased levels of education in improving the status of women throughout the world is well established. Higher levels of education are associated with lower birth rates, higher incomes, and greater autonomy for women. Yet, women’s struggle to have a voice in higher education has been fraught with difficulties in the US and worldwide, particularly in overcoming widely held perceptions that limit their entrance into certain academic fields, tenured positions, and elite universities. This essay examines the role political economy has played in providing narratives that rationalize women’s limited participation in higher education. By examining the representation of women in the academic culture of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century US, we can perhaps better understand women’s struggle to obtain an authoritative voice in higher education worldwide.