L’Eplattenier, Barbara and Lisa Mastrangelo. “Why Administrative Histories?” In Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration: Individuals, Communities, and the Formation of a Discipline. Eds. Barbara L’Eplattenier and Lisa Mastrangelo. West Lafayette, Indiana: Parlor Press, 2004. xvii-xxvi.
This collection of histories of early writing program administrators, their communities, and the fledging WPA discipline and community casts a new light on the history of composition: it places it in a larger, political institutional context and shows how composition programs were developed, run, and seen by the rest of the university. Administrative histories are often lost: administrators, burdened by the pressing immediate day-to-day tasks they must do, often did not publish about their work, and their administrative documents are either stored in an inaccessible place or have been lost/destroyed because they do not seem, at the surface, to have any scholarly value. The collection is divided into three parts. The first, individuals, traces the history of the development of the WPA position through the careers of individual people in the early 20th century who served as de-facto WPAs at their institution. The second, communities, shows how communities of early WPAs and their teaching communities came together to form support and intellectual networks. The final, discipline, explains how the WPA community worked to professionalize and gain recognition and rewards from the university administration and faculty.
“Recognized or ignored, titled or untitled, appreciated or unappreciated, paid or unpaid – someone classified students, assigned teachers, worried about standards, and did all the other administrative tasks inherent to writing programs. Someone, much earlier than 1976, functioned as a WPA.” (xix)
many early WPAs were women, untenured, did not have advanced degrees, learned on the job, made significant reforms at their institutions about teacher workload and class sizes
19th and 20th century, Gertrude Buck