1942 government recruiters tour women's colleges looking for industrial chemists. 

Major corporations advertising, begging for women engineers;


Curtiss-Wright aircraft company

"Curtiss-Wright Cadettes" program

– 7 colleges


     Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

     Penn State

     University of Texas


     Univ. of Minnesota

     Iowa State


War work in nutrition and food supply – Food & Nutrition Committee of National Research Council;

guidelines for Recommended Daily Allowances;

Bureau of Human Nutrition & Home Economics;


Army work - designed menus for 1.4 million soldiers;

Navy work - revise official meal plans;

Rachel Carson writes pamphlets on seafood;

Margaret Mead executive secretary National Research Committee on Food Habits;


Geology –

- Dorothy Wyckoff of Bryn Mawr top-secret work for Military Geology Unit, preparing African, Asian & Pacific battle-zone maps. 

- Zoologist Mary Sears (on leave from Radcliffe to Navy) headed military oceanography unit preparing reports on enemy waters;


University of Pennsylvania developing computer ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Computer) to calculate artillery trajectory tables;

the "ENIAC girls".




Between 11 & 85 women working on Manhattan Project - developing atom bomb. 


- Leona Woods worked on Enrico Fermi's 1942 first controlled nuclear chain reaction - build detectors for monitoring neutron flow from atomic "pile" to tell when reached point of chain reaction - later oversees construction & operation of plutonium production reactors in Hanford, Washington. 

- Mineralogist Helen Barlett develops new nonporous porcelain for bomb interior;

- geochemist Margaret Foster develops two new ways to separate thorium from uranium. 

- Aircraft mechanic Frances Dunne - explosives technician - part of assembly crew for 1945 Trinity test, world's first nuclear explosion. 

- Test monitors included Chicago nuclear physics PhD Elizabeth Graves.  


Women PhD's marginalized as assistants, librarians or clerical workers - "women's work". 

1943: "Women should be encouraged to enter the field of physics.  There are a large number of openings for women, particularly in the lower grades."



1942 - 1946, number of women teaching at US Colleges & universities tripled, from 2,412 to 7,712;



postwar period - Sarah Lawrence took male veterans;

all-male Univ of Florida at Gainesville crowded – state changes Florida State College for Women into permanently co-ed Florida State Univ.


1957 USSR launches Sputnik, first artificial satellite;

"Woman's Place is in the Lab, Too"

"Science for the Misses". 


“Officials Fear Many Federal Scholarships Will Go to Girls Who'll Shun Careers": worried that "money will go to train scientists who experiment only with different household detergents & mathematicians who confine their work to adding up grocery bills"


Harvard doubled male graduate student enrollment from 1,000 in 1946 to almost 2000 in 1947, while Radcliffe cut female graduate students from 400 in 1945 to 300 in 1946.


Number of women earning PhD’s in science slowly increased from 120 per year in 1940 to 290 per year in 1954 - but far outstripped by soaring male graduation rates. 

Not evenly distributed – few in physics, engineering;

Fields with bans – oceanography, forestry

Champions - chemist John Roberts only moved from MIT to Cal Tech in 1952 on condition able to bring grad students including Dorothy Semenow - needed special vote of Cal Tech faculty.


1956 Mademoiselle stressed seemingly low marriage rates of graduate-school women: "that most sexless of creatures: an academic drone, indifferently dressed." 


1956, 49% of male scientists employed in industry; 24.2% of women scientists.

"women's work" - public school teachers or lab technicians;

1956 _Chemical Week praised firms hiring women despite well-known drawbacks "such as short job duration, low job motivation, and everything covered by the phrase 'female temperament.'" After all, "women have outstanding qualities of patience, neatness, manipulative skill" so enlightened employers should hire women for jobs "where production continuity is not seriously jeopardized, where particularly feminine traits can be utilized" - technical writing, lab technicians, literature & patent searches. 


ended up as "resentful research associates" (Rossiter)

Margaret Robinson 26 years at Scripps recording data on oceans, preparing reports & maps;


1964 Science: "You must have a lab assistant, preferably female, since she will not operate quite so readily on her own and this is exactly what you want."

anti-nepotism rules -

Maria Geoppert-Mayer (1906-1972). 

Ph.D. in theoretical physics 1930 from University of Gottingen,      

came to US with husband, physicist Joseph Mayer.

Johns Hopkins -

  helping with German correspondence.

   1946 Univ. of Chicago - "this was the first place where Maria was not considered a nuisance, but welcomed with open arms."

"volunteer professor of physics."

work on nuclear modelling, developed model "spin-orbit force".

1963, Nobel Prize;

Science News "At Home with Maria Mayer"


1960 women only 3.78% of full professors in science, 115 women - & 86 of those in home economics - so only 29 female full professors in 21 top fields of science. 


1960, 187 women out of 2,051 assistant professors in science - (9.11%) - 114 of those in home economics

 ("grateful few")

doors closing in women's colleges, teachers' colleges, & home economics depts;


Iowa State, 1947 64.5% women grads had majored in home economics, versus only 31.8% in 1969, after ISU created new college of education. 



1960s Atomic Energy Commission grant for work with radioactivity in physics, biology & chemistry at Wellesley;

Goucher 1961 used NSF grant to buy IBM computer,

1964 Wellesley got money from NIH for first electron microscope for work of cell biologist Helen Padykula;


need to "normalize" faculty -

1940 men 40% faculty at Smith; by 1965 up to 65%.

Ended long "protegee chains" - 1957 Maud Makemson, the Maria Mitchell Alumnae Professor of Astronomy retired, fourth woman to hold position - replaced by man;


women scientists in industry shunted into "women's work" - routine testing, library work & literature searches,

1920 Smith chemistry major Jane Stafford - medical reporter for Science Service; 1964 associate director of information at National Heart Inst.


physical chemist Dorothy Martin Simons worked at Du Pont, Oak Ridge, then vice-president & research director of AVCO aerospace;

Hunter College graduate Gertrude Elion work at Burroughs Welcome 1950s & 60s new drugs for leukemia; 1968 head of experimental therapeutics - 1988 shared Nobel Prize for medicine.


"systematic underutilization".

aerospace & electronics industries effectively closed;

Du Pont 200 women scientists and engineers out of staff of 4,300 in 1960;

Polaroid hired Smith college grads, at least two black women scientists;


Yale doctorate Grace Hopper –

WWII Naval Reserve assigned to work on Harvard computer project,

1949 joined new Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp, became research director in systems & programming;

1969 named first "Computer Sciences Man-of-the-Year". 


IBM 1940s & 50s female math grads as customer service reps,

General Mills & General Foods hired female home ec graduates for sales & advertising;


1950 Society of Women Engineers - by 1958, membership over 500. 

Patron Lillian Gilbreth,


SWE goals "to inform young women, their parents & counselors and the general public of the qualifications & achievements of women engineers & opportunities open to them".

1964 First International Congress of Women Engineers and Scientists - 500 attendees from 33 countries

New Yorker "Mrs Cavanagh turned us over to Miss Barbara Fox, a pretty engineer in a dark=blue dress, who is a sanitary specialist with the Chicago Water Dept & has done a good deal of tunneling.  Miss Fox introduced us to Mrs. Catherine Walshe, also in a dark blue dress, who had helped design a nine-mile dual carriageway for the Dublin, Ireland County Council, and Miss Anna Hanson, in a green and white dress with red trim, who had worked on a sea wall for the City of Detroit."

1950s American Association of Univ. Women fellowships;