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MRS Degree

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"I went to Smith, and I was a history major, but I never had any plans to be a historian. I was always going to be a wife. I mean, the way I saw it, a woman's job was to run a home, organize the social life of a family, and bolster her husband while he earned a living."
Emily Gilmore, Gilmore Girls, "I Am Kayak, Hear Me Roar"

Some women go to college because they want the education. A woman who is looking for an MRS degree, though, is in college because she is looking for a husband (going from a Miss to a Mrs., y'see), and college is an excellent place to find educated men who are likely to make a good salary in the future and who are still available.

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These days it mostly shows up in historical fiction. If a modern woman wants to go to college just to get a man, she'll either change her mind by the end of the story because she needs to be a role model, or she'll be presented as shallow, selfish, or simply as squandering her opportunities. Can overlap with Gold Digger or (more sympathetically) fears of becoming an Old Maid or Christmas Cake. A Fantasy-Forbidding Father may assume this trope is the only reason his daughter is interested in (or should pursue) higher education, and will often frustrate her college dreams by pushing her to focus more on boys and less on books (if he doesn't refuse to help her pay for college to begin with).

Contrast Higher Education Is for Women.


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Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Technically this is why Nao went to Garderobe in Mai-Otome, she intended on using her Otome education to find a rich husband and live an easy life. A series of circumstances force her to become one of the Five Columns (essentially headmasters and autonomous forces of Garderobe) instead. She's unhappy about that.
  • In Gundam: Reconguista in G, Saintflower Academy, a girls' school that works closely with the Capital Guard, apparently exists mainly as a way for young women to find a handsome young MS pilot to marry. Considering what usually happens to Gundam pilots' love interests in Yoshiyuki Tomino's entries in the franchise, it's amazing the place manages to stay in business.
  • It's implied that this is what Mr. and Mrs. Heim intend in ∀ Gundam, which is why Kihel decides to take a job as Lord Guin's personal secretary because she feels it will let her be more useful to society. Sochie also intends to join the Militia even before the Moonrace invades because she's not interested in being a mine owner's wife.
  • Chie Sagamiono of You're Under Arrest! is a very peculiar case of this. For starters, she's the daughter of a rich family, so money is not an issue for her. However, she strongly believes she would be more attractive for a potential husband by being a police officer, which is why she intended to graduate from the academy on top of her class. Sadly that goal was dashed by Yoriko Nikaido accidentally one-upping her in every class, by sheer luck.

     Film — Live Action  

  • In Mona Lisa Smile, Katherine complains that she thought she was educating the leaders of tomorrow, not their wives, as her students are highly capable but have no personal ambition.
  • In Titanic (1997), Rose's mother says, "But the purpose of university is to find a suitable husband. Rose has already done that."
    • Cleolinda Jones mentions this trope by name in her Movies in 15 Minutes book parody of the movie.
    Ruth: I don't see why Rose should go to university. She already has her MRS degree.
  • Legally Blonde has Elle going to Harvard Law School so she can get back her boyfriend, who left her because she wasn't serious enough.
  • In The Help, Stuart Whitworth asks Skeeter, "Isn't that what all you girls from Ole Miss major in—professional husband hunting?"
  • Jane Fonda's first film, 1960's Tall Story, has her playing a character in pursuit of this.

     Literature  

  • In Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey, Fay Harper thinks at one point that half her female classmates are going to college for husbands rather than educations.
  • In The Sorceress's Orc, Vervain, Mistress of the Magical Sciences, suspects her student Amethyst of being husband-hunting. She is angry at Amethyst for not working hard enough, as she can tell that Amethyst is intelligent enough to achieve something. It later turns out that it's Amethyst's parents who would like her to find a husband. Amethyst herself is rather interested in the Magical Sciences, just a bit bored with all the learning she has to do before she can do anything interesting.
  • In the Maeve Binchy novel Circle of Friends, this is Nan's whole reason for going to college, which she states outright to her mother. She's not portrayed as bad for doing this per se, as it seems more that she's just not interested in what college has to offer and wants a rich husband so she can escape her crappy home life, but she does eventually make damaging choices in her pursuit of a man. Other female characters in the book are at college to actually learn how to do stuff.
  • The novel of The Help makes it clear that the only reason Skeeter and her firends were set to college was to find good husbands and apparently, this even extends to many jobs available for women. Skeeter's desire to actually pursue a career is seen as odd and her mother outright states that she considers Skeeter's degree just a "pretty piece of paper".

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     Live-Action TV  

  • The episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch titled "Inna-Gadda-Sabrina" has the main character traveling to the 1960s, where she expresses interest in a certain university (one she'd even been strongly considering in the 1990s), but the man tells her that he understands if she wants to get her MRS, but they can't let girls in.
  • Goodness Gracious Me had a sketch about the "Asian University", which offers a non-clinical medical degree for girls who just want to marry a doctor and don't intend to practice medicine.
  • The fact that the catchprase of Patricia Fernandez in Yo soy Betty, la fea is "Yo estudié seis semestres de Finanzas en la San Marino" ("I studied six semesters of Finance in San Marino College") suggest heavily that she had this trope in mind when she got to college. Since she begins the soap having to get a job for the very first time on her life because her husband dumped her and her family don't want to take her back, it obviously didn't take.
  • One episode of A Different World has Whitley confessing to Dean Hughes that when she initially came to Hillman, this trope was her plan, complete with a wedding the day after graduation and using her art history degree to pick out the right paintings to decorate the living room.
  • In an episode of Friends, Rachel's mother says: "I went from my father's house, to the sorority house to my husband's house." Rachel herself mentioned attending college (a former sorority sister shows up) but in the first episode, when hunting for a job, mentions she's "trained for nothing", so it's likely her college experience was mirroring her mother's or she failed completely. In a flashback, she's heard that she changed her major again because there was never good parking space in front of psychology department.
  • Gilmore Girls: The Gilmores are a very wealthy upper-class family from New England. Richard has worked in an insurance business and owns all kinds of important property. Emily met Richard while he was a student at Yale, and she studied history at Smith.
    "I went to Smith, and I was a history major, but I never had any plans to be an historian. I was always going to be a wife. I mean, the way I saw it, a woman's job was to run a home, organize the social life of a family, and bolster her husband while he earned a living. It was a good system, and it was working very well all these years."
  • Referenced on Mama's Family when Mama appears on Jeopardy!. During the contestant interview portion of the game, this bit occurs:
    Contestant: Just a few of the many degrees I hold include a BA, an MFA, and a PhD.
    Mama: Yeah, but do you have an MRS?
  • Starsky & Hutch: One of the murder victims in the pilot is a nineteen-year-old girl who was taking pre-law in the hopes of snagging a lawyer.
  • Midge from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has one of these in Russian Literature. She got married right out of college and had two kids. Once she separates from her husband, she gets a job as a make-up counter girl at a department store despite being very intelligent. Her mother who never went to college (who going off the actor’s age was born in roughly 1907) gets her father in trouble for this. The university he teaches at lets her sit in some art classes as a favor to him. She then convinces the girls in the art department to move to the business school because that's where the good husbands are. Since girls getting Mrs Degrees fund the art department, funding dries up.

     Newspaper Comics  

  • An early Bloom County strip has sorority members who are in college to meet eligible men.
  • An early Doonesbury took a shot at this one too, way back when the original characters were in college.
    Mike: Say, Lil, I've been meaning to ask you — what exactly do you expect out of our relationship?
    Lil (dingbat girlfriend who disappeared from the strip after this episode): Oh gee, I don't know. I guess I was kind of hoping our romance would blossom into marriage.
    Lil: At Magnolia College we say, "Ring by spring or your money back!"note 
    Mike: Really? Here we say, "You're taking the next bus back to Magnolia."

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     Webcomics  

  • Joyce in Dumbing of Age is an extremely sheltered fundamentalist whose stated goal is to find a good husband and drop out. Becky mentioned that this was what her father expected her to do as well, which conflicted with any aspirations she had of her own, not to mention her being a lesbian. (For the record, both of them were getting degrees in education, in order to better homeschool their future children.)

     Western Animation  

  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Lisa is offered a free ride to any one of the Seven Sisters Colleges, personified as college girls in a dream. "You could go to Radcliffe and meet Harvard men! Or go to Wellesley and marry them."

     Real Life  

  • Margaret Morrison Carnegie School used to be located near Carnegie Tech so girls attending there could snag an engineer husband. (They are now completely fused as part of Carnegie Mellon University.) One elderly professor's favorite story in the late 90's was that when courses were cross-listed but the schools were not yet fused, a young woman asked to have her English grade changed from an 'A' to a 'B' to avoid showing up her husband-to-be (this was back in the day when grades are posted publicly).
  • A number of universities are finding it hard to shake the reputation that their female students are attending primarily to get an MRS degree. Such schools include Texas Tech University; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida and Arizona, and Rose-Hulman Institute in Indiana. Others can't shake the reputation that both their male and female students attend in the hopes of finding their future spouse. Some even embrace this. Brigham Young University, for example, is well known for promoting a "marriage culture" (it's a Mormon-run institution). Mainstream Evangelical Christian colleges are also notorious for this, as like the Mormons they tend to expect women to conform to traditional gender roles.
  • Susan Patton was one of the first women to graduate from Princeton. In a letter to the "Daily Princetonian", she told female students to grab a husband while they were at Princeton because it was their best chance.
    • She later clarified she wasn't invoking this trope so much as another one; as a highly-educated woman, marrying while you're still in college would be the best way to avoid an Unequal Pairing.
  • Anne Spurzem, an alumna of Smith College, wrote a letter to the school's newspaper to complain that the students attending Smith were no longer the kind who, among other things, "wore cashmere coats and pearls" and "married Amherst men." The responses from current students and more recent alumnae ranged from amusement to indignation.
  • Inverted in multiple news reports about "hookup culture," generally expressing the worry that college students are totally uninterested in long-term romance, preferring casual sex.
  • This fifteen-year-old student had an encounter with a substitute male teacher who decided she was only in class to find a husband (and told the male students to grab her while she was fertile) and refused to let her in the classroom. He was fired after the regular teacher came back, found out what happened from both her and the other students, and reported it to the school board.


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