The first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. It marked the beginning of the official nationwide effort to advance women's rights, from being granted the right to vote and lobbying against job discrimination to the legal use of contraceptives, and it launched the modern feminist movement.

Equal educational opportunities also marked an achievement of significant progression for women. In 1967, federal agencies and contractors were required to take active measures to ensure women and other minorities received the same educational and employment opportunities as white men. This came as a result of President Lyndon Johnson's 1965 affirmative action policy to achieve equal opportunities in higher education and employment. Title IX of the Education Amendments became law in 1972, banning gender discrimination in schools, and women became entitled to the same educational and athletic opportunities as men.

Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences

Penn Foster, however, was already advocating education for women more than 50 years before Title IX was enacted. In 1920, Penn Foster - known then as the International Correspondence Schools (ICS) - provided opportunities for women to take correspondence courses by mail and to gain an education at the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences. The Institute was founded in 1920, the same year the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was signed into law granting women the right to vote.

ICS's mission was to provide "practical men with a technical education, and technical men with a practical education." The establishment of the institute represented the mission's extension to provide this opportunity to the housewife and mother as well. According to the University of Scranton website: "At its peak, the International Correspondence Schools and its contemporaries offered many working men and women their only chance at 'education for success.'"3,4

Project Working Mom

Fast forward to January 2008, when established Project Working Mom, a scholarship program developed to equip working moms with full scholarships to return to school. Phase one of Project Working Mom gave $2 million in scholarships to select recipients of more than 50,000 applicants. Penn Foster partnered with later in that same year for Project Working Mom 2, a second phase that granted an additional $2 million to working-mom applicants who may have been held back from pursuing a degree because of personal barriers such as time, money and confidence. These scholarships provided a gateway for working women with families to receive a free college education online.

The need for working moms to further their education to reach their goals was, and still is, imperative.5

Power of Online Learning

Penn Foster continues to support the educational advancement of women with an emphasis on quality online learning that's affordable and flexible. Penn Foster offers more than 100 self-paced, career-relevant programs for college and high school students. The convenience and accessibility of a Penn Foster education accommodates the diverse lives and various roles of women in particular.

The girl who left high school to care for her family, the professional woman seeking a career change or the stay-at-home mother who wants to re-enter the workforce with up-to-date job skills - all of these women can achieve their goals and improve their current circumstances by enrolling with Penn Foster. Online learning also accommodates busy schedules governed by outside responsibilities or a full-time job. High school and college programs all connect with Penn Foster's supportive online community of peers and faculty available 24/7.

Penn Foster has a long history of "helping hardworking people learn more." And Penn Foster's mission to help people acquire knowledge, skills and credentials that enable them to work toward goals, advance in a chosen field, start a new career and pursue lifelong learning remains the same today and tomorrow, for both men and women.3,6

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Resources: Photo credit. (1) Women's Rights Movement in the U.S. (2) Affirmative Action (3) Penn Foster Mission and History (4) International Correspondence Schools of Scranton (5) Penn Foster College Helps Working Moms Get Back to School (6) Why Penn Foster