Searching for Scientific Womanpower: Technocratic Feminism and the Politics of National Security, 1940-1980

By Laura Micheletti Puaca | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Science and the Second Wave

In October 1964, the Association of Women Students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sponsored a two-day symposium on American women in science and engineering. While “[a] conference at MIT on science and engineering is hardly a novelty,” quipped the institute’s president, Julius Stratton, “a symposium about women, on a campus… thought to be a man’s preserve, may well have appeared … as something remarkable.”1 This observation was confirmed by the nearly 900 participants, whose attendance well surpassed the expectations of the planning committee. Initially conceived as a local gathering to discuss the career problems of MIT “coeds,” the symposium drew 260 student delegates from 140 colleges, as well as 600 college deans, guidance counselors, scientists, high school students, and members of the Cambridge community. As the guest list expanded, so did the organizers’ objectives. According to conference chair and MIT senior Carol Van Aken, what began as a “modest informational effort” quickly became a major investigation of scientific careers for women.2

The goals of the symposium, as outlined by Van Aken, were threefold. First, organizers aimed to acquaint female students with the myths and realities surrounding scientific work for women in the hope of encouraging them in these fields. Second, they sought to reveal to employers and educators some of the concerns harbored by female students and to stimulate shared solutions. Finally, organizers wished “to attract the favorable attention of industry, other educational institutions, and the public at large … to the desirability of decreasing the present barriers that now prevent maximum utilization of the abilities of qualified women.”3

This interest in expanding opportunities for women in science by drawing on broader manpower concerns was well-worn territory for many program speakers, such as Polly Bunting and Lillian Gilbreth, who continued to be active in professional circles at the age of eighty-six. Other panelists, such as Mina Rees, who had worked at the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II and at the Office of Naval Research in the immediate postwar period, echoed this language as well. In her current position as dean of graduate studies at the City University of New York, Rees

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Searching for Scientific Womanpower: Technocratic Feminism and the Politics of National Security, 1940-1980
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - The War of "Trained Brains" 9
  • Chapter Two - Endless Frontiers for Scientific Womanpower 43
  • Chapter Three - Scientific Womanpower Enters the Sputnik Era 85
  • Chapter Four - Science and the Second Wave 127
  • Epilogue 169
  • Notes 181
  • Bibliography 229
  • Index 249
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