Looking back: S&T’s first woman graduate

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On March 1, 2024

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Dr. Larry Gragg’s book, “Forged in Gold: Missouri S&T’s First 150 Years.”

The Challenge for Women

“Throughout the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth,” historian Amy Bix writes, “American observers treated the professional study of technology as men’s territory. For decades, women who studied or worked in engineering were popularly perceived as oddities at best and outcasts at worst.”

Eva Endurance Hirdler Green
Eva Hirdler Greene earned a general science degree in 1911 because the faculty refused to award her a mining engineering degree.

A native of St. Louis, Eva Endurance Hirdler, after working several years as a stenographer and secretary, enrolled at Washington University in 1907 hoping to become a chemical engineer. Two years later, she learned that the faculty had no intention of awarding engineering degrees to female students, so she transferred to MSM to major in mining engineering.

Initially, Hirdler was a curiosity, the only female student at MSM. She later recalled that as she approached Norwood Hall to enroll she could see young men at all the windows hoping to see what “‘the Co-Ed’ looked like.” She tried her best to fit in. For example, realizing that virtually everyone smoked, Hirdler always had some “Bull Durham” tobacco and cigarette papers for those who bummed a cigarette.

However, she soon encountered “considerable objection” to her presence on campus from “particular groups of men.” Hirdler persisted, doing well in her classes, serving as treasurer of the senior class, and becoming a St. Pat’s knight and a member of the Missouri Mining Association. Moreover, some professors served as her “guardian angels,” men who stood on the “sidelines ready to cheer me on when I needed some encouragement.”

Still, after Hirdler completed all the requirements for a degree in mining engineering, the faculty voted that she should get a bachelor’s degree in science instead. For the rest of her life, she believed “that the faculty’s refusal to grant her the engineering degree for which she had worked, was because she was attempting to break into what was then an all-male profession.”

Read more about Missouri S&T’s history in Dr. Larry Gragg’s book, “Forged in Gold: Missouri S&T’s First 150 Years.”

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On March 1, 2024.

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