In Their Own Voices: The Impact of the Feminist Movement in Adult Education

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Studies and Research

First Advisor

John R. Rachal

Advisor Department

Educational Studies and Research


Because the very premise of adult education is achieving goals, researchers can interweave the field's themes and motifs with those of other goal-driven disciplines. Primarily, one of adult education's major guiding philosophies calls for personal and social improvement, which links it to social movements. The feminist movement in particular is a source of much adult education theory and practice yet to be examined by adult educators. Writings from major feminist thinkers provide evidence of the power of words in the learning process, which progresses from reading about self development, to seriously pondering one's own inner and social situation, to gathering to fight for personal and social changes. This paper examines writings from first-wave women's movement authors Margaret Fuller and Charlotte Perkins Gilman along with those from second-wave authors Betty Friedan and Audre Lorde through the philosophies of major adult education theorists including Paulo Freire, Jack Mezirow, Myles Horton, and Eduard Lindeman to discover how both fields illuminate each other. In doing so the paper discovers and discusses connections to key adult education tenets such as transformational learning, praxis, voice, experience, and power relations in the writing from the feminist movement, showing that it is indeed an adult educational effort.