S&T to host lecture on women in science and engineering

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On September 26, 2012

Dr. Amy Bix, associate professor of history at Iowa State University, will present a lecture about the history of women in science and engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology on Oct. 1.

The lecture will be held at 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, in Room 120 Butler-Carlton Civil Engineering Hall. It is free and open to the public.

In her lecture, titled A Woman Invaded the Guard of St. Patrick: Gendered Histories of American Engineering Education, 1876 To Today, Bix will discuss how, when, and why women began studying engineering at American colleges and universities.

“For decades, women in engineering programs stood out due to their rarity, even more than in science,” Bix says. “In many places, formal barriers maintained engineering as a male-only preserve.”

Well-illustrated with photographs, cartoons and other material, this presentation offers case-studies of how engineering coeducation developed at state land-grant institutions before and during World War II and at schools such as Georgia Tech, Caltech and MIT.

“This evolution of engineering coeducation illustrates the long history of questions surrounding gender and technical work, vital questions that still resonate in today’s engineering world,” Bix says.

Bix, who is also director of ISU’s Center for Historical Studies of Technology and Science, is the author of Inventing Ourselves Out of Jobs? America’s Debate Over Technological Unemployment, 1929-1981. She has published work on the history of breast cancer and AIDS research, eugenics, alternative medicine, home-tool use and post-World War II physics and engineering. She has also written about the history of women aviators, physicians and home economists, plus gender and the body in Islamic culture. She is currently finishing a book titled “Girls Coming to Tech! An Institutional, Intellectual, and Social History of Engineering Education for American Women.”

The Oct. 1 lecture is part of a year-long project at Missouri S&T called Beyond Arithmetic, which will explore the complexities of women in science and engineering and the gendered relationships their presence has brought into focus throughout history.

A second lecture is planned later this fall. Dr. Marie Hicks, assistant professor of history at Illinois Institute of Technology, will speak about women in computing at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9. Another lecture and a panel discussion with alumnae and scholars in history, science and engineering fields are planned in the spring.

“Because women had, for decades, been removed from the histories of science and engineering, many times being downgraded or simply forgotten, in the 1970s historians started ‘adding’ them back in,” says Dr. Jeff Schramm, associate professor of history and political science at Missouri S&T and co-organizer of the Beyond Arithmetic program.

“In doing so, however, they continued to use the same timelines, cycles of history, and life-cycle analyses that had been used for men,” says Dr. Kathleen Sheppard, assistant professor of history and political science at Missouri S&T and co-organizer of the Beyond Arithmetic program. “By shifting to examining history using issues that women would have to deal with, historians can ask new questions, for example, what does having children do to a woman’s career historically? How would historical events flow differently because of this? This approach even highlights understudied, but important, events in the history of women as human beings and as professionals.”

Beyond Arithmetic is co-sponsored by Schramm and Sheppard in cooperation with Cecilia Elmore, director of student diversity, outreach and women’s programs at Missouri S&T and an S&T graduate, and Jerri Arnold-Cook, director of leadership and cultural programs at Missouri S&T.

For more information about the lecture or the Beyond Arithmetic series, contact Schramm at schrammj@mst.edu or Sheppard at sheppardka@mst.edu.

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