Women and Literacy

Powerful Essays
Women and Literacy

The recent United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women concluded that if women are to advance their status socially, economically, and politically, they must have access to high quality education (Albright 1996). Although women in the United States have steadily increased their educational status, millions still have a problem obtaining appropriate education and training because "[r]ace, class, and gender assumptions organize American society in ways that put all women, but especially low-income women, at a disadvantage" (Laubach Literacy Action [LLA], "Facts about Women's Lives" n.d., p. 1). The fact that 23 percent of the women in the United States aged 25 and over have not gone beyond high school (ibid.) reveals that, as a group, women are still educationally disadvantaged.

More than 50% of new enrollments in federally funded adult basic education programs are women (Development Associates 1993), but until recently little attention has been given to the needs of women literacy learners in the United States. Fortunately, that situation is changing. Georgia State University's Center for the Study of Adult Literacy has begun sponsoring conferences on women and literacy. Since 1994, when it began Women in Literacy/USA, LLA has been been providing financial support to programs that empower women as well as developing a network of programs serving women (LLA, "Project Overview" n.d.).

There is also a growing literature base to support work with women literacy learners. Although much of this information has been generated abroad (e.g., Canada, Australia, and Great Britain), it raises issues that have relevance for programs in the United States, including the following:

Goals and Purposes. As descr...

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...ress or cognitive improvement) with the ideological model of literacy (that which suggests that literacy is multilevel and embedded in whole cultures), the author argues for separate literacy courses for women.


Canadian Congress for Learning Opportunities for Women, 47 Main Street, Toronto, Ontario M4E 2V6, Canada, (416) 699-1909

Center for the Study of Adult Literacy, Georgia State University, University Plaza, Atlanta, GA 30303-3083; (404) 651-2405

ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1900 Kenny Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1090; (614) 292-4353 or (800) 848-4814, ext. 4-7686; E-mail:

Laubach Literacy Action, 1320 Jamesville Avenue, Box 131, Syracuse, NY 13210; (315) 422-9121

Wider Opportunities for Women, 815 15th Street, NW, Suite 916, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 638-3143
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