Both my parents attended the University of Washington after serving in the military during World War II – my dad in the army, my mother in the marines. My mom was one of the first women in the nation, and at the UW, to attend using her benefits from the GI Bill.
The GI Bill was passed in 1944, and set off an explosion in higher education. Veterans were provided with financial aid for tuition and living expenses, and by 1947, nearly half of all college students were veterans. By 1956, nearly half of the eligible veterans had used the GI Bill for college or some kind of job training. My father got his BA degree in Business Administration in 1947.
These figures actually only applied to men. Of the 350,000 World War II women veterans, under 3 percent attended college on the GI Bill. Many women didn’t know they were eligible. But the real reason was that post-war culture and social mores encouraged (sometimes forced) women out of the workplace and higher education, instead emphasizing their “natural” roles as homemakers, wives, and mothers.
My mother was different, partly because she was brave, partly because she loved literature and wanted a degree in it, and partly because her husband wasn’t a Neanderthal. My father encouraged my mother to go to school, even though she was a woman. Although he was a long way from what I’d call a liberated man, he at least believed that educated women made better wives and mothers.