Western feminists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries challenged the idea that intellectual inquiry should be conducted exclusively by men. They argued that women who  were given appropriate education and training were just as capable as men of producing valuable research, and they pressed for women’s admission into institutions of higher education, the primary research institutions of the time. Legal barriers to women’s entry into higher education  slowly eroded throughout the twentieth century, and by the early 1970s most had fallen, though informal barriers remained strong. However, Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, passed in  1964, provided a legal basis for “ordering such affirmative action as may be appropriate” to  counter employment discrimination. Affirmative action was given no precise legal definition, but was used to refer to an open-ended range of practices designed to make occupational opportunities available to members of previously excluded groups, including women.