[These remarks were prepared for a panel at the Modern Language Association Convention of December 1974.]
In at least the schools I know something about, mainly in the midwest, women were added to the permanent staffs of English departments rather frequently from 1900 to 1930, almost not at all from 1930 to the mid-sixties, and in steadily increasing numbers since the mid-sixties.
In the first of these periods, 1900 to 1930, women composed a fraction of the English staffs, maybe about a fourth or a third. Some of them became highly respected scholars. I'm thinking of persons such as Helen White at Wisconsin, Evelyn Albright and Edith Rickert at Chicago, and Nellie Aurner at Iowa. Such women ascended the professorial ladder more slowly than their male counterparts, and were probably paid less than the men, but there seems to have been no question about their deserving tenure and getting it.