MIT History: The Women of the Institute 1997

MIT History: The Women of the Institute 1997


[MUSIC PLAYING] SEAMANS: Hi, I’m Warren
Seamans, former Director of the MIT Museum. We’re here today to talk
about the history of women, and how that history
has developed over the years, particularly
the last 50 years at MIT. Ros– WILLIAMS: I’m Roslyn Williams,
now the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs,
and I have been for two years at MIT. I have many deep memories of
MIT, going back to the ’50s, as a kid, whose
family was at MIT. So I’m both participating
as an individual with that background,
and also as dean. Emily, do you want to
introduce yourself? WICK: I’m Emily Wick. I came to MIT as a
graduate student in 1946 to study organic chemistry. And that was right
after World War II. And everybody, all the
grad students, everyone, all the guys, could hardly
believe they were still alive. But they were and it was a
wonderful time to be here. And also, everyone remembered
all the wonderful things MIT had done during the war. It was the national resource. And everyone was proud
to be part of it. Well, I got my PhD. And then post-doc’ed until ’53. Then I worked at Arthur
D Little for four years. And then I came back
to MIT, this time in the Food
Technology Department as a research associate. And in a couple of years, I was
appointed assistant professor. And worked like crazy, because
at that time there was an age limit when you would become
no longer eligible to even be considered tenure. And I had about two years to go. But I worked really hard. And I was fortunate in having
some wonderful graduate students, who made it all
possible, and some post-docs. And so I got promoted
and got tenure. Soon after I did that,
Kenneth Wadleigh, who was the Dean of Student
Affairs at the time, wandered down to my lab. And he said, there are not
many of you girls around here on the faculty. And there were two of us,
myself and Margaret Freeman in the Foreign
Languages Department. And Ken Wadleigh knew
that Mrs. McCormick– at that time, this was
about 1963, by now– the first part of
McCormick Hall was built. And the number of women students
had increased considerably. But Ken knew that
Mrs. McCormick was going to give money for a
second wing of McCormick Hall. And there would be many more,
many more, significantly more women students. And so he said, how about coming
halftime to the Dean’s Office, and being an Associate
Dean of Student Affairs, with primary responsibility
for women students across the whole range
of student affairs. So that’s when I moved up
the Dean’s Office and met Dottie, who was already there,
understanding all the students, and the way the system worked,
and how the departments worked, and what was going on. BOW: I’m Dorothy Bow. And I came to MIT
in 1950 to work in the Metallurgy
Department, where I worked with graduate students. My Professor Norton
was about to retire. And so I knew a lot
of women students, mostly because my office was
sort of the main corridor. And lots of people
dropped in to see me. And I had always ran
a very open office. The door was always open
and anybody could come in. Dr. Compton always came
in on his way to lunch to say hello and how
are things going today, which I always well remember. He had lovely blue eyes. Anyway, a lot of women
students at the time were not doing
well academically. And were feeling that
if the environment was better, that we might– that they might do
better and become part of the mainstream of the
Institute, which at the time they felt that that
wasn’t happening for them. Because Mrs.
McCormick’s money was becoming available
for a dormitory, Ken had decided that
it would be a good idea to have someone on
his staff who could oversee that environment for
students and their new housing. And in fact, women students
across the board at MIT. And he went to talk to
Polly Bunting at Radcliffe about this, to get some ideas. And she suggested that he
hire Jacqueline Mattfeld to come down and do a
complete research project, from a history, and write a
program for women students at MIT, which she did. And her second year
at MIT, I was asked to come down and work with her. Because she was new
to the Institute and didn’t know who
to contact about what and where to get different
bits of information, which I was able to do. So I worked with her for, I
think, about a year and a half, when she put together
this program, which was a wonderful– really, really hard-working
person, who put together an awful lot of information. And it caused a great deal of
discussion, both pro and con, but was certainly an
important document, and something that I think has
laid the groundwork for what went on since that time. Jackie was then
offered a position at Sarah Lawrence College and
left to become, I believe, the dean there. And that’s when Emily
was invited to come down. I wasn’t sure Emily would want
to keep me on, because I had– I had done a lot of
this background work. And as I said, some of
it was controversial. And I figured
someone new will want to bring in their own
staff and lay it out. And I knew she had backgrounded
at MIT, so that what I was doing wasn’t always– but anyway, she
did ask me to stay. It was the beginning, I think,
of an absolutely remarkable relationship. We worked together for– WICK: Team. BOW: As a team, right. What Emily did very well,
I didn’t do very well, and the other way around. We got to know all the students. Really, every student,
we really worked very hard to identify
each person by name. Make sure that the
office was always open and that no student
felt, no woman student felt that there was
nowhere that they could go if they needed even
a simple question answered. We did administer
housing, athletics, just about every possible
student issue for women came through our office. In fact, a lot of men
students came to our office for the same variety of issues. But as time went on,
and Ken left that job, I had been there
seven years, and I decided it was probably time
for me to move on as well, which left Emily there. And she left shortly after that. In that gap time,
we felt something needed to be filled in. We needed a fill in for the
time that we were there. And Millie had come on
board during that time, as the Abby Rockefeller
Mauzé Professor. And we were able to include
her in many of the things that we did. And I will turn it
over to her from there. WICK: She took the ball. BOW: She took the ball. ROCKEFELLER: Well, I actually
came to MIT before this time. But I was at Lincoln Lab,
starting in June 1960. And it was many years before
we met, at least seven. And I came to Lincoln Lab
because it was an absolutely first class research lab. And I had a family
problem, because there was husband and wife, two
members of the same family, both in science, in
similar fields, in fact. And I was a post-doc at
Cornell University, where my husband, Gene Dresselhaus
was a faculty member. But at that time, at 1960,
there were nepotism rules and so as long as I was a
postdoc with my own support. It was fine for me to be there. But when the NSF post-doc
fellowship came to an end, that was the end
of my appointment. And there wasn’t
even an opportunity to work for nothing. So Ithaca, New York is sort
of the end of the world. There was no industry. There was no other thing. That was just it. And so we were looking around
for a place we could both work. And there were just
two places that were willing to take two
people in the same field. And MIT was one of them. IBM Corporation
was the other one. So we had a choice of– individually, we could go
to all kinds of places, but together, we had
very limited choice. And we decided we didn’t want
to have a traveling marriage. So that’s how we
came to Lincoln Lab. And not only did they
hire the two of us, but they encouraged us to
interact strongly, and write papers together, and all kinds
of things that were kind of against the rules of that
particular period in time. Lincoln Lab was a
wonderful place to work. I had a kind of job
there that allowed me to do research on most
anything I was interested in. And those kinds of jobs
just don’t exist today. So to young people,
it’s almost impossible to describe this opportunity. And it was a great opportunity,
except for the fact I was a female. And as the number of children
that we had increased, conforming to the hours
requirement that they had became more and more impossible. And the particular thing
that led to my difficulties in coming down to MIT
campus was the rule that we had to report for work
at 8 o’clock in the morning. And as the number of
children increased, this became more
and more difficult. And I was always late. And I got an awful lot of flack. There were two of us that
were in this situation. We seemed to have our babies
nine months phased between us. So there was always
somebody with a new baby between the two of us. The other person was Laura Roth,
who is a brilliant solid state theorist. And she was the one that got fed
up with the harassment first. And she left for
Tufts University to take a faculty
position there. And so with one of us gone,
the brunt of the criticism fell on me. And after a while, I got so
that I couldn’t take it anymore also. So I was looking
for something to do. And at that time, I became aware
of the Abbie Rockefeller Mauzé Chair, which had
just been founded. And I was the– I applied. Or somebody applied
for me, of course, was, I guess, a more
accurate description. And I was offered this visiting
position, which I accepted. And it turned into
a permanent position very shortly after I arrived. So that’s how I came to MIT, a
very circuitous and different path. And it was several
years later, in 1973, when I became the permanent
holder of that chair. Which was a very,
very nice chair. Because it gave me quite a
bit of resources and freedom. But I at any rate,
when I first arrived, it’s important to
mention this, this chair, because the chair had– one of the conditions
about the chair was a scholarship for women. It was for women
scholars to promote female scholarship or
the scholarship of women scientists and engineers. And in reading the
scriptures on the subject, it became clear that
I should find out whether there were implications
in a broader sense, if I was supposed
to do something for the female
students on campus. So at that point, very early
on, I made contact with Emily, I suppose, first. And you couldn’t meet
Emily at that time without meeting Dottie. They were sort of
like two twins. So that’s how I got
to know them both. They each had played
quite a different role in implementing women’s issues
and activities on campus. And they made it clear
to me that not only– even though there was no
stipulation within the chair, that I had to do any particular
thing on behalf of women, they certainly would welcome
any help I could offer, because there was so
much work to be done. And it was far beyond
what they could do. And having a third person
would both make it fun and increase our effectiveness
by a factor of two, something like that. They said it would be
a multiplication factor by the additional
ideas that we could bring to bear and discuss. And it really turned
out that way, I think. That we energized each
other a great deal. And on days when we
could be discouraged. We found ways to be encouraged. So our relationship started
in 1967 and was very intense, until Emily left. And we will recount to you
some of the things that happened during those years. SEAMANS: Could we go back and
talk– you mentioned, Dottie, about the number of–
that you knew every woman student by name and so forth. What was the women
student population that you could do
this service to? BOW: There are about
100 in a class, at that time, if
I remember right. Somewhere in there. WICK: The class was–
how big was a class? BOW: It was about 800,
total class, I think. WICK: Yeah. BOW: If I remember– ROCKEFELLER: How do you
like the number 372? BOW: Sounds very close
to 100 in a class, yeah. SEAMANS: Total undergraduate. ROCKEFELLER: That’s
a number that sticks in my mind for some reason. I don’t know what it means. BOW: It sounds good, because
I’m thinking of 100 in a class. And with the attrition
it sounds about right. SEAMANS: Less than 10%. BOW: Yes. WILLIAMS: How about
graduate students? Were you also involved with– BOW: Again our door was open and
we saw many graduate students. The fact that Emily had
been a graduate student, and was a faculty
member, and had graduate students of her
own, did increase the number. WICK: If they’re in
a department that cares about graduate students
and if their professor runs a place where there is
a home like atmosphere, then they’ve got a home already. And it wasn’t until you
want to do something on a more Institute
wide basis, or you needed a little outside help. BOW: I’m thinking in particular
that Emily and Millie had meetings in Cheney Room. ROCKEFELLER: Yeah, that
was one of the first things that we tried. And the reason–
it had a purpose. That was partly to
educate me on the milieu– that is, the local climate– and to meet with the students,
without anybody else. I just did it more
or less myself. I think you came
once in a while. WICK: Once in a while. ROCKEFELLER: Stop in
to check up on me. But this was a personal
exchange to educate me about what the issues
were, and to try to come to setting some
priorities about where to put our time. And trying to improve those. SEAMANS: Were these
regular scheduled meetings? Or were they just sort of– ROCKEFELLER: Yeah, they were. And I guess that most of the
kinds of issues that came up were that we had a
group of students, it was clear that they were
academically very gifted. But they had some difficulty
getting through the system. And it wasn’t
related to academics. It was climate related. And they had, each
and every one of them, it seemed had general
concerns about– oh, that they had
low aspirations. They had confidence problems. They felt that the professors
didn’t pay attention to their questions in. Class. It went on and on in this way. SEAMANS: And these are
particularly gender related. ROCKEFELLER: The issues
that were brought up were almost entirely
gender related. And this was the only way I
could get into these issues, because the classes that I
taught, for the most part, were all male. Because my department
had essentially almost no women, had a very, very
small percentage, much smaller than the Institute as a whole. Electrical engineering
was kind of behind some of the
other departments in attracting women. Although, I think that
they made some effort. They appointed me and they
appointed other faculty fairly early on. But where the students had
to select the department, it took some time. BOW: That group of
students was both graduate and undergraduate, who
came to talk with you. I think they really– I mean that was my first– ROCKEFELLER: We fed them. BOW: That’s right. WICK: We gave them
cookies and tea. SEAMANS: Always the– BOW: That’s right. But Emily knew a
lot of students. And we encouraged them
to use Cheney Room, which she had used as a student. WICK: Oh, it was an oasis. BOW: It was an Oasis. WICK: It was the
oasis in the ’40s. BOW: It was a place to get away
if things weren’t going well. And then having Millie
there was just an added– a plus, because she was there. SEAMANS: I think
this raises a point. To cover this early history,
early ’40s, ’50s, history, what was the living
situation for women students? WICK: Well, when I came,
it was the second year that 120 Bay State
Road had been opened. And it was a nice house
over there in Boston. I think the capacity was 18. And half of us were grad
students and half undergrad. And Margaret Alvord, whose
husband had taught at Tufts, was the manager. And she was a good, good friend. Mrs. Compton was
very much involved, and Mrs. Sage, in that house. Mrs. McCormick, there was a
special fund Mrs. McCormick gave that allowed– you could hire a taxi
on torrential rain days and you didn’t have
to walk the bridge. Mrs. Alvord used to go
to the Friday afternoon Boston Symphony concerts
with Mrs. McCormick. And so we didn’t see
much of Mrs. McCormick, but we knew her
presence was there. And of course, she was
the class of 1902– SEAMANS: 4. WICK: 4. And she– well, I think
Mrs. Alvord, Mrs. Compton, the Killians, they were– they knew Mrs. McCormick
cared about women students. SEAMANS: But wasn’t
there a restriction on the number of
women’s students, based upon the number of housing
spaces that were available? WICK: Yes. I don’t know whether in the
’40s whether they really cared where you lived. That’s why I think there
weren’t very many women who came as undergrads. And then the other thing,
to set the environment, is that we talk
about how we tried to know every woman student. And in today’s
context, that almost sounds like we
were babying them. Well, that wasn’t true. We were trying to nourish
this little small– it’s like a little
plant, surrounded by this big environment,
which everyone really– you know, love is
not the right word. But you’re stimulated
by, it so exciting, just the learning,
the information, you know, the wonderful
people walking around on the campus that have done
all these things in science and technology. But it was just such a
small group of women. And then the
Margaret Cheney Room, I remember when I
was a grad student– well, when I first came– I had gone to Mount Holyoke
and graduated in 1943, in a liberal arts college. And we had real good science. And we worked real hard. You come to MIT,
and I used to think, oh, those poor undergraduates,
this is no way to live. But you get into the atmosphere. And you become part of a
group in your department. And then if you don’t– if
the system doesn’t break you into little bits,
you’re going to succeed. But if it does bust you
up, that’s the sad part. And I could have
never have survived it as an undergraduate. I wasn’t that
professionally driven. I would have probably
done something else. I probably wouldn’t
have major in chemistry. SEAMANS: Were there
women alumnae in the year when you were a
graduate student? WICK: Oh, yeah. SEAMANS: That were particularly
inspirational to you, that came to know? What gave you the
force to go on? WICK: Katharine
Hazen, who had also gone to Mount Holyoke,
some years before me. Had gotten her master’s at MIT. Yeah, there were ladies– SEAMANS: But these people
were taking an active part. WICK: There were these ladies. They were around. And they paid attention. BOW: These were– Katharine Hazen was a good
example of someone also we called on. WICK: Oh, yeah, and of course
her husband was Harold Hazen. BOW: He was here
as a faculty member and she was knowledgeable
about the Institute. And she was not a
shrinking violet. WICK: No. SEAMANS: Isn’t today. BOW: No. WICK: And Margaret Compton, I
mean, with all that college– Worcester, and everything,
in the Compton family, she was a wonderful
lady right there to give a little moral
support or say, well, tut-tut, that’s not the right attitude. WILLIAMS: When you came
as a graduate student, then did you find that the
department was a home for you in the way that you say? WICK: Yeah, it was a
good gang of people. And I think a lot
of it was that it was right after World War II. And there was a special
atmosphere around there. BOW: Yeah, it was different. WILLIAMS: How was it– how was it different? WICK: Well it was because the
war was really a terrible thing to be living through. And you– while it was going
on, you’d go home at night, or you’d read the paper, you
didn’t know about your best friend, or your brother,
or your fiance, or whoever, they weren’t alive anymore. It was awful time. And to have all that
over, and to have Europe– the Marshall Plan,
and things were beginning to come back together
in Europe and around the world. It was a time of– ROCKEFELLER: But MIT
had a family relation– WICK: Oh, yes. ROCKEFELLER: We did so
much to win the war. WICK: Absolutely. And so you were so
proud to be here. ROCKEFELLER: And particularly
in my department. There was a real bond– bond-ship between people. WICK: Oh, yes. WILLIAMS: They served
in the Army together. WICK: They had the
ideas, the radar and– ROCKEFELLER: Radar
was born here. WICK: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: And people
that weren’t in radar, so many of them went to Los
Alamos and other places– WICK: Right, oh, absolutely. ROCKEFELLER: –to work on the
Manhattan Project and so forth. And then they came back here. So they had an inside track. WICK: Yeah, and a kind of
deep wisdom and seasoning. I mean, those people that– I’ll never forget when– ROCKEFELLER: It was a club. WICK: –Oppenheimer
came and gave a seminar and talked, the look
on that guy’s face. You just– you know, he’d lived. BOW: There was a group, when I
was in metallurgy department, for instance, who never
thought they would ever attend a university. WICK: That’s right. BOW: People who
came with the GI. And super bright, super capable,
very committed, but mature, and knowing what
they wanted to do. And I think that was a very
special group of people that I think you’re
both referring to. SEAMANS: But Emily, when
we think of the GI Bill, we don’t think of women
students coming in under that. WICK: No, the women
students didn’t come in under the GI Bill. In fact, I don’t think too
many women grad students– well, I have a true confession. The reason I came to MIT was
it was near the Atlantic Ocean and I liked to sail. And if I was going
to work like crazy, I would rather come to a
place near the ocean, where I could sail. Otherwise, I would have gone
to University of Illinois, where Roger Adams and a lot of
very famous organic chemists had been. So I wasn’t exactly
professionally driven. SEAMANS: But were you– WICK: Very reasonable. SEAMANS: Were there other women
students in your grad class? WICK: Yes, there
were other women grad students at that time– there weren’t a lot of us. But I worked in Dr.
cope’s group, Arthur Cope. He was head of the
department for many years. And a very distinguished chemist
and very, very fine, nice– absolute integrity. I learned more about– nowadays, I read
in the newspapers about people accuse
scientists of fudging results and this and that. Dr. Cope made sure– and it didn’t enter our
heads that you would ever put in your research
notebook something that you didn’t observe. I mean, whether it was
a big blot of coffee that you spilled or– but it was wonderful
training, just wonderful. BOW: Let’s follow that
a little bit, though, because I think Ken Wadleigh
was one of those people. WICK: Absolutely. BOW: Who came at that time
in engineering through– WILLIAMS: The mid century? BOW: Yes. WICK: He’s the same age as
I. He was in the class of– SEAMANS: He came in ’43. BOW: And had been in
the service, I believe. And was one of those people
who didn’t expect to be at a university like this. And I can recall one time,
when we were talking about what his expectations were
for women students, and he said I want it
to be a first class place for women students,
just as it is for men. And that’s, you know, a goal
that you should keep in mind when you’re looking at any part
of what your– what he called across the board issues, was
that we should be considering it as a– making it a first
class place for women. SEAMANS: So he became
Dean for Student Affairs in 63– something like that? WICK: No, before that. BOW: It must have been
around ’59 or ’60, because I went down
there, I think, in ’62. WICK: He’d been in the
mechanical engineering department. BOW: I think he had won
the Billard Award, or one of the awards for teaching. WICK: Right. BOW: And had come to
Dr. Stratton’s attention in that route. And again, Dr. Stratton
was influential, because he had three
daughters, I think. And also had the contact
with Mrs. McCormick. And all of this kind of
came together at the time. I think Mrs. Stratton, we talked
a little bit about her role. And one thing I
remember about her– she was the first
president’s wife whoever invited non-faculty,
non-student women to participate in anything. And she had invited me,
and Allison, and a number of other people to come to a
discussion group of some kind at the president’s house,
where we talked about what it was like to be a woman at MIT. And I think that
was the first time in my time at the
Institute that anybody in that kind of a position
had brought it up. SEAMANS: You think it was a
conscious decision on somebody like Ken Wadleigh or
Jay Stratton’s part to just start
increase the number, to make it more affable. WICK: They cared about
excellence in education. And they figured that women
were as human as fellows and we all deserved– ROCKEFELLER: It
wasn’t my impression that they were after
increase of numbers, rather than increase
in the quality of life for the students
that were there. I believe even when
I came, and that was a few years after the
time we’re talking here, we didn’t have expectations
of large numbers. And I remember once doing a back
of the envelope calculation, thinking that by the
time I would retire, we would be up to 20%. WICK: Yes– ROCKEFELLER: It that
was kind of the– the outer limit
of attainability. SEAMANS: Why would
you even think– you think there was a drive
to increase, to some degree, but within a limit? I mean, why was
this 20% sort of? ROCKEFELLER: Well, in
our anecdotal contacts with the women students, it was
just a question of interest. The ones that we had basically
gave us the impression that it was pretty hard to make
your way, even as a student, let alone as a career, in the
fields that we featured here at the Institute. So that’s one factor. And then it was felt that
women just weren’t interested. So there was both the
bias and the reality of the difficulty in making
your way through this place, or any other like institution,
and then establishing a career. WICK: The other thing is– BOW: And there was
no history of it. The numbers in the
profession were so small. WICK: Since those
times in the ’60s, the whole curriculum
at MIT has changed. I mean look at the
required courses. I haven’t been close enough to
it to be able to speak of it in detail, but there
are many more fields that are not just strictly
the straight ahead engineering and pure science, that back
when I was a grad student, or even in the
’60s was the norm. WILLIAMS: The core has been
cut in half in the ’60s. And the other thing
that’s happened is women are heading
for specific majors. I mean, chemical
engineering is now, or has been, over half women. WICK: Right. WILLIAMS: And of
course biology has an enormous amount of women. And there’s a sort of biomedical
combination of bio engineers. ROCKEFELLER: On the
other hand, women have gone over critical mass
in every single department, so that’s not really
the whole story. And in the early work
that we were involved with, say just around 1970,
we made some conscious efforts at that time. We had– I guess we’ll get
to this later, our grant from the Carnegie Foundation. BOW: Oh, yes. ROCKEFELLER: One of the
main points about that grant was to set some priorities
for women on campus. And I think that we put
very strong emphasis to get women in the
mainstream of MIT, not out on the peripheries,
but have them study the same thing as the men. Because a very
simple calculation would show that
an institution has some strength in various areas
of science and technology, and how do you see that? You see that in terms of
the faculty appointments. And if the women students
would go one way, and the men’s students
would go in another way, that would limit how many
women that you could ever have. And it would be a very
undesirable situation. So we orchestrated
our grant in a way to promote women’s
participation in fields where they hadn’t been before. WICK: The other thing
we should say is that– ROCKEFELLER: We’ll
talk about that later. That whole thing
is going to come. WICK: –the the number of women
students that were admitted was governed by the
number of dormitory– ROCKEFELLER: That would be a
good thing to talk about now. SEAMANS: Yeah, I think that’s
a critical thing to cover– WICK: That’s very critical– SEAMANS: –at this point
during the ’60s, I believe. WICK: –because it meant that
you filled the spaces that were available for women. There was a residence rule. SEAMANS: Do we know when
that actually came in? Was it existing when you moved
to the Dean’s Office, Dottie? BOW: I think so, yes, there
was a residence rule for women students at that time. But that was– SEAMANS: So sometime
in the ’50s. BOW: –the first tower,
McCormick, had been– WICK: Yeah, that came with
the first half of McCormick. BOW: I think it came with the– SEAMANS: So prior to that time– WILLIAMS: Exactly, just– WICK: A woman student, unless
she lived with her family was required to live on campus. Now, at the time,
there was no way– there wasn’t enough space at
all for the men’s students. I mean, they could never
have applied that rule to the men students. But it was part of– from the
point of view of improving– BOW: Safety. WICK: –the quality of life
of the women’s students. But it did put a
limit on the numbers. BOW: And it did
appear to be biased. And since that–
and remember, we had a group of women
students who got very, very upset with this and
went to Ken Wadleigh to accuse Emily of being
unfair to women students by applying this rule
or including this rule. And I’ve forgotten
now what the– it was resolved without too
much difficulty, whatever. But the student brought in a
jar of apple butter to Ken. I don’t know if
you remember that. WICK: I vaguely remember that. BOW: And we said, we didn’t
get any apple butter, but he– WILLIAMS: So when
McCormick was built, then it made a huge difference,
because all of the sudden– WICK: It made all the
difference in the world. Because smart young
women who might have been attracted by MIT,
but the living conditions were just crummy. And you didn’t really have
a chance at athletics, or the whole range
of activities. WILLIAMS: I was going
to ask about that. WICK: Why not– and at
the same time, of course, the former men’s
colleges were going coed. So they could go anywhere,
able young women could. And then it came along that
the second part of McCormick got built. And that meant the
numbers just went right up. This was before any thought
of affirmative action. Thinking of goals,
and timetables, this is pre-history to that. WILLIAMS: So how did
admissions work at that point? WICK: Well, I used to
read about 250 folders. I’d read all the
women’s folders. And I’d read some men’s
too, to get calibrated. To know, well, is
this all different. So we were always part
of the admissions. SEAMANS: But women admissions
were handled separately? WICK: Yeah, I think, yes. BOW: Up until I
think your report. WICK: Yeah, I think so. And then we recommend, as the
dorms here began to go co-ed, student house went co-ed. And we could anticipate that
women would be infiltrating the residence system,
as well as there’d be McCormick for
people who didn’t want the co-ed experience. So then the numbers
could grow more. And the outside world,
the whole culture was changing so
rapidly, that just all– ROCKEFELLER: But what
the report established was equal criteria
for men and women. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: Which
was very important. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And then
a corollary of that, if you have equal requirements,
why not have the same admission process. WICK: Right. ROCKEFELLER: So the
same admission process, I think happened before 1970. WICK: I think so. ROCKEFELLER: About ’68 or ’69,
something around in there. BOW: Actually, there
are two things here that probably need to be said. Emily’s report has very
significant information in it which I think can be used for– WICK: I had the numbers. BOW: — a number of things. And it indicates
what the quality of life for women students
was before McCormick and after McCormick. Academics changed and went up. The whole participation in a
variety of on-campus things all made this dramatic
change the minute you saw this on-campus
support system, so to speak. WICK: And a larger
number of women around. BOW: The numbers increased,
and the whole thing just takes on a very different
view of what happens to women students when they were here. The next thing is, though,
that Millie then became a member of the committee. WICK: And you just– BOW: And she just
picked up from there. ROCKEFELLER: I was involved
with that original report. WICK: Yes, you were. BOW: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And There
were some aspects about that that were important. The men– many men– felt that the prospect, the
potential of good students, was quite limited. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And that
the numbers that we had would be limited by the cutoff. We had one cutoff for men,
and another cutoff for women. The women had much
higher qualification. WICK: Right, the cutoff. ROCKEFELLER: And it was felt
that once that was equalized, that would be the number. And that was a
very small number. WICK: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: In actuality. However, what they
didn’t take into account was that once
people became aware that we were interested
in having women students, and offering equal access– and we were one
of the few schools that had equal access at
the time that we did this– the numbers shot up far
beyond any expectations. And not only that, but the
quality of the applicants also went up. And this surprised
the men greatly. WICK: Yeah, they
couldn’t believe it. ROCKEFELLER: It
surprised me too. BOW: You were a member of
the committee at that time, the admissions committee. ROCKEFELLER: Oh, yes. BOW: Yeah, you we’re able to– ROCKEFELLER: I was
working on that for a few years, a couple
of years before our report. And that sort of led– I think that we were
working together on this led to courage to
come up with this report. WICK: I think I did
one, and then as I left, you and Paula Stone, and a whole
bunch of people, worked on– ROCKEFELLER: That was
a different report. WICK: Yeah, right. ROCKEFELLER: That was
a different report. That report wasn’t about– the
original admissions report, we did. WICK: Yeah, right. okay. ROCKEFELLER: We did that one. WILLIAMS: Do you
remember the date of the one your talking about? WICK: 1970– ROCKEFELLER: 1968. WICK: Really? BOW: That was the
first one, yeah. ROCKEFELLER: The first report. And the second report with all
these other people was 1970. WICK: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: And that
started because of the demise of your office, Emily. WICK: Yeah, that’s right. ROCKEFELLER: That
what brought it about. And there were two
things that happened as a result of the demise
of your office, that happened very abruptly. Remember, one day it was and
the next right it wasn’t? WICK: The demise. BOW: That’s a good word for it. ROCKEFELLER: Maybe
you could explain what happened about that. BOW: I don’t know
we know, do we? WICK: No, I knew that I– I knew that I
needed to go back– if I wanted to have any
credibility as a scientist, I had to get back
there and do something. Then, no sooner than I got
back to the department, then Mount Holyoke came,
wondering if I would be interested in being
the dean of the faculty. And I never thought
I’d ever leave MIT. In fact, I told
the faculty member on the search committee,
who called me, and was an old friend of mine– I said, oh, Tibby, forget it. I live where I want to
live and I love it here, don’t bother me. Well, then, I sat down
again, and I thought– in all my experience at MIT,
and during the Vietnam troubles and the divestment of the Draper
Lab, because of my half-time position as dean, got me
invited to meetings– kind of across campus meetings,
where you’d learn about what was going on, and
how people like, oh gosh, Jerry Wiesner and Paul
Gray, and all the people who had the whole burden
of the Institute on them, were dealing with this. And I had become very interested
in an educational institutions and how they worked. And I’d also become
very much interested in women’s education. So I said to the search
committee person– I called her back. I said, I don’t want the
job, but if you folks want to waste your time, I’d
love to come out and find out how Mount Holyoke works. So I went out. Yeah, it was fascinating. And I never expected
I’d be the candidate. But then when I ended up being
the candidate, in Mr. David Truman was the president– I mean, it was a
challenge I was ready for. And a smaller institution on a
scale that you can encompass. And also, I liked the fact that
there were classics departments and there were other
kinds of departments. I still loved MIT, but you never
know what’s going to happen. WILLIAMS: I’m just laughing,
because this story is very similar to my being asked. I said to the search
committee for the dean, I’m not interested, but I
want to tell you a few things. SEAMANS: A serious mistake. You’ve sort of raised something,
which I had been thinking of. And this is the role of the
horse late ’60s in this whole student– the student unrest, as I
guess you euphemistically call it today. Did that make the
role of increasing women’s students more easier? Or did it– I mean you think of
so many things that happened during that time. UROP started, and IAP. A lot of things changed
MIT’s outlook considerably. WICK: Well, IAP led
to the Women’s Forum, led to all kinds of
women’s activity. BOW: I think Ken started what
he called gender days, when students could meet, I
think usually at lunchtime in the student center. And bring to his
agenda topics that they felt needed to be addressed
or needed to be talked about. Or he would put an
end to it right there, which he had a way of doing. But many really
useful kinds of things came out of that for discussion,
with students, with faculty. ROCKEFELLER: I think we
have to say that students were much more active. I’d been at the Institute now
for a long time as a faculty member. And that was the one time
when the students were most interactive with everybody. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And they felt that
they were on an equal basis with each and every one of
us, including the president. WICK: Yes, yes, even more equal. ROCKEFELLER: And so it was
actually a rather good time to make changes. But most of the changes
on the women’s issues came about with the demise of
your office, I think, Emily. I really think that. Because students felt– WICK: Is that good or bad? ROCKEFELLER: At the
time we didn’t– my career has certainly
been very much like this, and I don’t know
about the rest of you, but adverse things
always happen. WICK: Sure. ROCKEFELLER: But adverse things
often lead to a reexamination. And through the reexamination,
good things happen. WICK: That’s right. ROCKEFELLER: I would say that
the Women’s Forum and the IAP activities, and
many of the things that we did at that
period, were directly connected with reexamination. And we were told that the way
women’s affairs were handled at MIT would be
different in the future than they had been in the past. Well, if they’re different, and
everybody’s on an equal basis, we should all get together
and talk about it. WICK: Sure. ROCKEFELLER: So that’s
why we had that study. So that’s the 1970 study. And you have a copy of that. It’s amazing that you
still have a copy of that. WICK: I still have another one– BOW: Pre word processor. ROCKEFELLER: That’s history. SEAMANS: What’s the title? BOW: Well, that may not be
the one you’re talking about. WICK: This may be
a different one. ROCKEFELLER: The 1970 study. BOW: This is the
admissions study. WICK: This is a proposal for
new policies for admissions. BOW: The one you’re
talking about is– ROCKEFELLER: Is a
different study. WICK: Yeah, I might
have it at home. ROCKEFELLER: Somebody
has it around. Dottie used to be our
archivist during those years. WICK: I’ve got all kinds. ROCKEFELLER: She used to do all
the records and implementation. She was the only
organized person. At least, I wasn’t
organized in this area. I had enough to do keeping
my research stuff going. WILLIAMS: So the
ending of your office, was this a conscious
effort to, should I say, mainstream women’s issues? WICK: I think the
fact that I decided I should go back and
do science kind of led to people thinking about,
well, what should be done next. BOW: On the other
hand, there was a change of deans that
generated that, that review into what we were doing. WICK: Also we had become
really overburdened with pre medical advice. BOW: We were doing pre
med at the same time. WICK: It was
wonderful to know all those wonderful young folks. But it really– BOW: It was a terrific
amount of work. WICK: And that was
the time when the boom for going into medical
school, was just burgeoning. And the Harvard–MIT– ROCKEFELLER: Program
was beginning. WICK: Was beginning. And so we just had more
than we could handle. ROCKEFELLER: And women started
getting interested in medicine at that time. Before that time,
there were very few. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: So it
was a big thing. But after Emily stepped down– I’ll give you my
side of that story. I don’t know if it’s
the same as your side. WICK: I don’t know. ROCKEFELLER: When
you stepped down, that was a conscious
decision that you made. But the question was what
next, what should happen next. And the students
had one opinion. They thought things were
going just beautifully the way they had been going. They didn’t want
to see a change. Okay, maybe Emily
had enough of this, but there’d be somebody
else taking Emily’s place. And the new dean,
Nyhart, his idea was that we wouldn’t
have another person with the same duties as Emily. Now he had made
that known to us. And so I was the recipient of
many unhappy women students. And Dottie was
probably the recipient of many more than I had. But we thought we should have
some kind of strategy meeting. And the second thing that
we thought we should do is to try to have some
alternate methodology to give support to women
that felt that they needed additional support. And the first year of IAP
just happened, coincidentally, at exactly the same time
as your office disappeared. WICK: It was. ROCKEFELLER: It was identical. WICK: Yes, it was. ROCKEFELLER: And it was even
sort of plus or minus a month. WICK: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I decided just
about that time. ROCKEFELLER: So it was amazingly
coincidental what happened. So we put out an ad in
that first bulletin for IAP that we would have kind
of a workshop activity during that very first
IAP, as a kind of a support group for women. It was supposed to be students. And so we advertised
this in the IAP bulletin. Emily has a copy of
the advertisement. WICK: Not the ad, its notes
taken at Women’s Forum meetings, IAP, 1972. We didn’t expect
anybody would come. WILLIAMS: This became
the Women’s Forum. ROCKEFELLER: Yes. WICK: Yeah, in the Cheney Room. At least 75 and
maybe up to 100 folks were there– staff, students. ROCKEFELLER: The place, you
couldn’t admit another person. It was standing room and
it was incredibly crowded. They couldn’t get in
through the doors. Because we made a mistake
that we didn’t put students, we just put women. And so all kind of
women showed up. BOW: That was a good mistake. ROCKEFELLER: And
was that told us– yeah, that was a great
mistake that we made. That was the best
mistake for MIT. WICK: –we ever made. ROCKEFELLER: Great mistake. It had great repercussions. Because we got the
message that we needed– as women faculty, we had
to take the leadership for women at MIT, not
only women students. And that was a very
important observation that we had missed
up to that point. WICK: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: Because that
there was nobody else that’s listened to– there is nobody else that’s
listened to as a faculty member here. WICK: I don’t think that if
you and I had gone separately to other women faculty, we
wouldn’t have had the success. In the first place,
we didn’t probably know them, the other women
faculty particularly well. But when we were all in this
room, with all these women, it just was clear. ROCKEFELLER: Well, we
had a pretty good inkling about the women faculty,
because I remember with that from the
period that I came, until you finished
your term of office, we used to meet over in
Ashdown House for lunch. Do you remember those? WICK: That’s right, we did. ROCKEFELLER: And
we had one table. And we would talk about
priorities for women at MIT. I remember those very well. WICK: I don’t
remember them well. ROCKEFELLER: Well, you
have you a zillion meetings and I had very few. WICK: We had a different–
you have a better mind– BOW: Let me go back a bit,
because your mistake wasn’t quite a mistake. Just before that
first forum meeting, it was advertised in
the IAP people bulletin, and a contingent of women
employees came into the office. WICK: Talked to you. BOW: And talked to me, and said,
can we come to this meeting. We’re finding things
at MIT not as good as they should be for employees
as well as maybe students. And can we just come and listen. We won’t be disruptive. We’ll just– and
that’s, I think why– and I said yes, come. ROCKEFELLER: Well, you thought
it was going to be five people. BOW: I thought there would be– I thought there’d be five
or 10 students there. And it turned out to be– SEAMANS: These were
administrative staff, secretaries– BOW: These were, yeah. SEAMANS: Across the board. BOW: Across the board. In fact, some on the
building five corridor were the ones who
had said, look, there are some issues
that we’d like to raise, and we think if we talk with
other women, it may be helpful, both for us and for
other women to see that, see what’s going on. So they passed the word. And I think that’s how
so many women showed up. You can blame that– blame that on me. But it really was, it
was a remarkable meeting. WICK: It was exciting just
to see all those women. ROCKEFELLER: I
would say, though, the whole series of meetings
that we had that month were very exciting to me– WICK: And it continued. ROCKEFELLER: –because I
got the message of what I had missed all this time
and what was necessary. And we have to also point
out that Jerry Wiesner was very, very supportive
of our activities. They were really behind us. WICK: Absolutely. ROCKEFELLER:
Because I remember– I remember this– and I often
say this in public, actually, so I might as well
own up to this. Because I know when it happened. And it happened in connection– in conjunction with the Women’s
Forum and some proposals that came after that. So that’s January
of 1970, isn’t it? I think– WICK: ’72. ROCKEFELLER: 72. Well, it’s that very first IAP. WICK: Yep. ROCKEFELLER: And I guess the
paper that we put together, the very first draft, was not
quite up to Jerry’s standards. And I owe to him that he took
me aside and gave me some counseling on how
to do a proposal. And I never failed after that. That was the one and only time. He was my first and severest
mentor on science policy. Because that’s what I
call this whole thing. WICK: Oh, yes. ROCKEFELLER: It’s a
different part of my career. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And
what he said was you have to treat science
policy and service at MIT, and elsewhere in the
country, in the same way you treat your own research. And you have to have
a level of excellence. WICK: Absolutely. ROCKEFELLER: And you have
to think through what are the purposes and to fashion
any proposal and document that you issue with the
same kind of excellence as is expected of your
MIT scholarly work. And that stayed with me. That was terrific advice. WICK: What a wonderful,
wonderful, man. And Mrs. Wiesner– ROCKEFELLER: Yeah. BOW: She never missed a meeting. ROCKEFELLER: She always
came and she took notes. WICK: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: She was so always
available for staff work. We used to do these studies. And she would take her
part, along with all the other committee members. And called students
individually, one on one. And we used to do
telephone quizzes– questionnaires. BOW: That’s right. ROCKEFELLER: Remember? BOW: The telephone survey. SEAMANS: There were a
couple surveys done. ROCKEFELLER: Housing
and so forth. And she was one of the– I don’t know if you
know that– but she was one of the members
that called the students. And she was one of
the very best people that we ever had in
doing those calls. She was a terrific staff member. SEAMANS: Exactly during
this time, from ’71 to ’73, work was being done on
the Women’s Centennial, the Centennial of Ellen Swallow. CREW: We’re going
to change tapes. SEAMANS: Okay. BOW: Good. CREW: Let’s take a break. SEAMANS: Yeah,
let’s take a break. ROCKEFELLER: Yeah SEAMANS: I’m Warren
Seamans, former Director of the MIT Museum. We’re here today to talk
about the last 50 years of the women’s history at MIT. With me is Ros Williams. WILLIAMS: I’m the
Undergraduate Dean, Dean of Undergraduate
Education and Student Affairs, since 1995. SEAMANS: I’d like to
pick up with the Women’s Centennial in ’73. At that point, all
these other things seemed to be happening
simultaneously. And working with the AMITA, we
put together an amazing exhibit on the history of women
up to that point at MIT. We lined the corridors
in June of ’73 with stories of the fascinating
and phenomenal things that had been done
by women alumni. And did this– were you aware
of this from the Dean’s Office? Did this have any affect
on the overall thing? BOW: I can remember the students
being very impressed with the– and coming
into the office, and saying did we know
certain students or did we– but I also remember the
story that some students were very impressed with
Florence Luscomb and they wanted to locate her. So they went– I’m not sure where they started,
maybe the alumni office, but eventually found her
living in Central Square. And I think a rooming
house of some kind. SEAMANS: A commune. BOW: But they were
determined that they wanted to invite her to
have dinner with them and talk with her, because
they thought she had done such interesting things. So they asked a young
man at the desk, or at the front, of Florence
Luscomb lived there. And he said, yes. And he hollered up the
stairs, “Hey, Flossie, there’s some girls here who
want to talk with you.” And she was about 90 years
old, I think at the time. SEAMANS: She was class of 1909. BOW: Right. SEAMANS: So this
would have been– BOW: And she came down
the stairs on the double and went and visited
with these students. And had a marvelous time, and in
fact, stayed connected to them for quite a long time. But I think the other thing
that came out in that display, particularly, is not
just these pictures then, but it made almost a personality
out of many of these people that you depicted there. And I think too that Mrs.
McCormick comes through as really an exceptional woman. I think the fact that she
encouraged the birth control research, and that
she was so active in the suffragette movement. I mean, after all, two things
that are important to women– ROCKEFELLER: Today. BOW: –today, were
being able to vote, and being able to have some
control over their lives. And I think that really
left an impression. So whatever, from
my perspective, at the time, that students
came in to talk to me about, those were two
people that I think were shown in that
particular exhibit. And they came to life for
the students through that. WICK: That’s right. Mrs. McCormick,
some of the students would see every know and
then, but she was just a little lady with a black hat. And it was hard to believe
that this was the lady that did all these things. And isn’t there a marvelous
portrait of her in– BOW: In McCormick, yeah,
I think so, there was. WICK: There’s a hat– SEAMANS: There’s
one actually in– WICK: It looks like Sargent
or somebody painted it. I’m not sure he did, but you
know, really, what a lady she was. SEAMANS: There are
actually two portraits. There’s on in McCormick Hall. But there’s a wonderful one
in what I call the President’s Auxiliary Office, Kathryn
Willmore’s office, as you go from the
President’s Office, directly across, Katharine has– WICK: She was some lady. SEAMANS: Yes. BOW: I think what I
wanted to really– is to show the enthusiasm
that our students had for getting to know students
who’d been here before them, and had gone through many
of the things, perhaps, that they’d gone
through, and really they were searching for stories and
information about these people. WICK: It was an easy way to
capsulize the history of women here, a very effective way. That was just the
time I was leaving to go up to Mount Holyoke. So it was kind of
just a round up of– WILLIAMS: Was there a sort
of mixed message then, if your office was closing
down, and this was perceived as a crisis, at the
very time that you’re celebrating this centennial. It sounds like a very– BOW: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: Crisis
turned into good things. WILLIAMS: But you don’t know
it at the time of the crisis. ROCKEFELLER: Well,
one point we should make about Mrs. McCormick,
that’s really important, I think, for women at MIT, it is
often said that admitting women is a negative for
fundraising, right? Because women don’t have
the resources and they’re not as good donors as alumni. Now, I heard that
a lot in the ’60s. Before we had too
many women at MIT, one of the arguments
against admitting more women was it was going to do
something terrible to our– it was very detrimental
to fundraising. But the truth of the matter
is that of the alumni up to that point, Katharine
McCormick gave more money than anybody else. SEAMANS: To date. ROCKEFELLER: Still to date? SEAMANS: I think so. WILLIAMS: I wonder
what were some of the other arguments against
increasing the number of women students at MIT. Because now, in 1997, it looks
like sort of inevitability, right? This is the way history
was, of course, marching. But I doubt if it felt
that way in the ’60s. ROCKEFELLER: I’d
take that one on. I think it was a question of
off capacity to do the work. At the time that I came in,
we had a bimodal distribution. We had women students
that were truly superb . And then we had another
bunch that were not– below average, okay,
let’s call it that. And on the basis of
the admissions process, there was no reason
that they should be below average, because
they were admitted with high capabilities. And I would say, certainly
people in my department, and we’re sort of
mainstream MIT, I think that there was
a disbelief that women could do the work here. They felt that as
high school students, when things weren’t
all that competitive, women were studious,
and they were motivated, and so forth, diligent,
and they would be fine. But put them in a
college environment, and all the demands of the
MIT undergraduate program, that they didn’t have
it to make it here. And so the demonstration
was that we had women around for 100 years. And they were substandard, based
on the admissions criteria. So we have to lower
the admissions criteria to get more women. I mean, that was
the whole thing, and then they would
flunk out of this place. So I believe that
the fundraising was only part of it. The other part was
there was disbelief that they could make it here. And I think that what,
on my side of it, was that we didn’t give– we didn’t have an experiment. This is after you left. In 1974, you weren’t
here anymore. And I was asked to write a paper
for the IEEE Education Journal. They asked me write a paper–
what to write a paper about? I didn’t really know
anything about– there was anything particular
about educating women in engineering. So I came up with a prediction
about critical mass– what was critical mass
and why it was important. So the premise was
that women today weren’t doing so well in
engineering because they were below critical mass
and they didn’t have the same educational
opportunities. Even though they were
admitted to a university, they would be singled out. They’d sit in and a
seat, and around them were a whole bunch of holes. WICK: Yeah, right. ROCKEFELLER: You remember how
that was when we were teaching, and they had one
girl in the class. And there was just no
other student next to her. It was like poison
or some kind of– WICK: She’s a dandelion. Weed killer. ROCKEFELLER: And when she
tried to ask a question, it wasn’t taken seriously. We heard that time and time
again from the women students, that to participate in
class was difficult. And it was difficult because
the professor didn’t take them seriously, and because their
colleagues, the cohorts, the same age, the other
students, there was a barrier. And women didn’t
want to seem stupid, so they didn’t want
to ask a question that might seem stupid. You can’t learn science if
you won’t ask a question that was on your mind. It didn’t matter if it
seemed stupid or not. The most important questions
often do seem stupid. SEAMANS: Would you define the
critical mass to some degree? ROCKEFELLER: Yes,
well at that time, my formula for
evaluating critical mass was, I took the size of a class,
which is about 20 students– I don’t know if that’s the right
number, but 15 to 20 students. And I figured that you
need more than one woman student in the class. That if there was
zero or one, then she wouldn’t participate in the
activities on an equal basis. And it wasn’t before there
were two in the class that there was a chance that
she would ask a question. So I used that as
the critical mass. And you worked that out, simple
statistics, that gives you 15%. And what I have had the pleasure
of watching over the years, and as the various departments
increase their numbers of women students, and the
numbers got up to 15%, there was a change
in the performance. And when we got close to
15%, the bimodal distribution that we were so used to, when
you were in the Dean’s Office, disappeared. And the distribution became
similar to the distribution of all the students. But of course, at the
time that I came up with this supposition,
we didn’t know. And this work is
actually often quoted in the education of women
students, let alone engineers. SEAMANS: This
critical mass thing, we have a wonderful
photo of 26100, when it became the
primary physics lecture hall, with two women students,
one of whom is Sheila Widnall, by the way. WICK: Oh, really. SEAMANS: And sitting in
this mass of 300 people. ROCKEFELLER: And there
were holes around them? SEAMANS: Well, sort of. But I mean, they
were all crowded, the professor forced
them all forward. So they’re not sort of
a circle around them, but at least there
were two white shirts. The rest of them all
have coats and ties on. ROCKEFELLER: I know
my own teaching here, in the early years,
until maybe 1975, or maybe even
beyond that, I used to see this circle
of empty seats around the women students. I saw that myself. SEAMANS: I’ll look at it. I’m sure there probably is– BOW: There are two areas that
might respond to that question, though. Discussions that I
remember sitting in on. Emily never went to a
meeting without being absolutely so well prepared
that there was no– WICK: Yeah, don’t be stupid. BOW: No, you had to
be, because you just never knew what kind of
question was going to come up. WICK: Well, that’s true. BOW: So she was
always well-prepared. And when she
presented this report that we just talked about
on admission policy to the, I think it was Faculty Council,
the room was very crowded. And I was sitting
in the back row. And I had taken along a
woman student with me, just for support and because
I thought she’d be interested. But I dragged her along. Anyway, there are two
questions came up. And one of them was, if we had
met all these women students, and they’re successful, and
they graduate from here, what will they do when they leave? WICK: What did I say? BOW: And you said, what
do the men students do. And a dead silence
fell in the room, because nobody knows what
the men students do either. So I thought it was the only
way to answer that question. I mean, we had a lot
of data to indicate what the women students do. But our numbers were small. And even though we said, of
the 100 in the last class, 80 went to graduate
school, and so forth, it wasn’t really what
they were looking for. But I thought that was
a question– an answer that needed to be said. Because I don’t
think anyone really knows where all our
male students end up and whether they end up using
the education that they had. And the other
question that came up was of this class
size and displacement. If we admit 100 more
women students, will we have to reduce the
number of male students. And that discussion,
there’s no answer to it. And you have to look. And I think, in
fact, the discussion went on for several years. And I think finally they did
increase the size, the class size to 1,000. WILLIAMS: But modestly. BOW: But slowly
and modestly, yes. ROCKEFELLER: Well, the increase
in the women, numbers of women was small at first. BOW: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: So that it
didn’t disturb the balance. But look what’s happened. WILLIAMS: Yes. BOW: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: In the interim,
it’s not a small perturbation anymore. WICK: No. BOW: But I think it probably
was a good decision, the way it was done, to do
it in that incremental way, so that you weren’t– ROCKEFELLER: It was
the only way to go, because we didn’t know
ourselves what would happen. BOW: No. ROCKEFELLER: In all fairness. WICK: That’s right. WILLIAMS: I’m sure the hidden
question in the first question was, aren’t the female
students going to get married? WICK: That’s right, that’s
what they were looking, I mean, clearly. ROCKEFELLER: It’s
worse than that. There were very few
career opportunities at that time for women. WICK: Yes, it was very– ROCKEFELLER: In science
and engineering. And it was bad enough
in the universities, but to get a good position
was a lot more difficult. But I think that
what we could do if we want to know
how well they did is to look back what
our graduates have done. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And that is
the most amazing story. We know about the big
successes, because they’re prominent in the newspapers
and they’re national leaders, and they were our students,
and so many of them. WICK: Yes, that’s right. ROCKEFELLER: And
the other thing is that when you go to a
professional society, and you look at the women
speakers that they have, and the people that are
asking intelligent questions in the audience,
and I look back, and I remember this was
in the class of this, and this one was in
my class of that. WICK: That’s right. ROCKEFELLER: And the
percentage of people that are making their mark,
that are our former students is large. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: So that tells us
that we did something right. And I would like to mention
one other data point, is recently we’re
starting a campaign to raise funds for
a new building, CS building, Computer
Science building. And so we go back and
look at our alumni. And of course, alumni
includes women nowadays. And how many women CEOs and vice
presidents of this and that, the number is staggering. I had no idea that we had so
many of our women students as entrepreneurs and running
their own businesses, and this and that. We could never have
predicted that at he time. SEAMANS: Just backing up
what Millie has just said, next year the 125th anniversary
of Ellen Swallow’s graduation. ROCKEFELLER: We should look
at some of those statistics, and you wouldn’t
believe what you see. SEAMANS: But as part of that,
we asked the Alumni Association, the Technology Day Committee
asked the Alumni Association to pull out a list of
all women CEOs and those with a professor or profer,
professor in their title. It’s a volume that thick. It’s a staggering number
of people that are– and this is only
those two categories. So I mean, it was just very– just totally unbelievable. Because it’s happened in
a sense very gradually. And yet, obviously, it’s
very much a force right now. ROCKEFELLER: I think it
was a surprise to us. BOW: Sure. WILLIAMS: If you go back
to those pivotal years, and there clearly
is a hinge there. BOW: Yes. WILLIAMS: I mean
something happened. You’ve just enumerated
a lot of reasons why many people–
students, alumni, faculty might not have wanted to see
MIT significantly increase the number of women. So who were the people
who wanted to see this happen, or the allies? You’ve said you didn’t
feel isolated, or alone, or particularly embattled. So how were you helped
by people in the MIT administration or faculty? WICK: Well, I always felt that
the whoever was the president, from Killian, and
Stratton, through, they and the upper
administration, they held you to high standards– BOW: That’s right. WICK: –and severe questions. But I never felt that,
in principle, they were against this happening. It was a matter of excellence,
quality, doing it right. BOW: I think we were
carrying a banner to do it. But I never felt that
we were shut off from– WICK: No, never. BOW: We always were allowed to– as I said, you were invited to– ROCKEFELLER: I think that facts
were strongly on our side. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: Because
the admissions take that particular case. We were admitting men and
women by different standards. And our faculty thought
that was repugnant. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: We should
have the same standards. So they were on our side. It made it easy. BOW: Who was the
director of the– the head of the
Committee on Admissions from the Aero Department. I’m terrible with names today. But I know he called
me one day and said, I’d like to try a
social experiment and see how the women– how we could admit more
women, and just kind of see how that would work. And so he asked
me for some data. And he was really the
committee chair at the time. ROCKEFELLER: Yeah. BOW: Do you know who
I’m talking about? ROCKEFELLER: I
know who you mean. And I forget his name. He’s still on the faculty now. BOW: Yes, he is. ROCKEFELLER: And if I go
through the AeroAstro list, I can easily
identify him for you. BOW: It will come to
me, but he really was– he had this open kind of– he had heard some facts. He wanted to get some more. And he considered this
to be a very, as I said, social experiment that he
wanted– an engineering experiment, almost. He set it up that way. And I think was one of those,
as you asked about allies, I think I always
considered him to be one. ROCKEFELLER: He was
proactive on our parts. BOW: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: There were a number
of people that were proactive. WICK: Well, the other
thing about the MIT faculty is that, with so many– I don’t mean to slam
the humanities people, but most of the
faculty are fact– ROCKEFELLER: Fact oriented. WICK: Evidence oriented. ROCKEFELLER: Yes. WICK: And if you can
bring up– if you can say, look, look at it yourself. What conclusion do you come to? They look at data and– ROCKEFELLER: And we were very
careful about our reports. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: Our
reports have lots of statistics, lots of data. BOW: We were fortunate
that you too– one a scientist,
one an engineer, could speak the same language. ROCKEFELLER: We spoke the
same language as the men. BOW: That’s right, but
there was not a whole lot of social kind of stuff. WICK: No, there wasn’t. BOW: There was never a whole
lot of how many came in for counseling and how many came
in for this problem or that. WICK: It was education. BOW: It was always
educationally based, yes. SEAMANS: I think it’s
proper to point out these two trailblazers here. We have Emily, who is the first
person who sort of came up through the ranks to
gain tenure at MIT. And the first person to
be appointed professor in the entire school
of engineering. ROCKEFELLER: First
tenured member. Actually, Sheila
Widnall preceded me, but I got tenure before she did. I came as a full professor. WICK: That’s right. ROCKEFELLER: And she
came through the ranks. SEAMANS: I think that says a
lot, in the sense that these were then the people who
pushed the whole ball further and opened the door. WICK: We were part
of the whole culture. BOW: Well, they had, yeah,
they had credibility. WICK: We liked the place
and enjoyed the environment. We were stimulated by all the
intellectual activity and fun, as well. ROCKEFELLER: Yeah, we
liked the competition. BOW: And the challenge. ROCKEFELLER: And the
intensity of the place. WICK: Oh, yes. ROCKEFELLER: I always
thought that was a great thing about MIT. BOW: But that’s what it took. Any lesser people– group
would not have been able to– ROCKEFELLER: We did the
same thing with the women that we did with the guys. Academic excellence
and leadership, I think these are the two
things that we emphasized. And I’d say we did rather well. I think that we got
leadership in our women, which was very difficult. BOW: Yes. WICK: That’s right. ROCKEFELLER: To do
academic excellence was relatively easy, because
they were expecting that when they came here. But leadership is not
something they were expecting to do when they came here. But they left with it,
one way or another. SEAMANS: I think we could
mention a few of those people. We talked earlier about, not
during one of these sessions, but about Maria [? Kivacel ?]
and Scotty Margaret MacVicar. It’d be nice to get some
recollections of those people. WICK: Dottie, you
tell about them, because you knew them best
when they were undergrads. ROCKEFELLER: You spent the
most time with them in a way. BOW: I spent a lot
of time with them. I think of Paula Stone,
who you knew very well. ROCKEFELLER: Paula Stone,
yes, I remember her. BOW: Civil engineering, and
when she lived in Senior House, and I would go over and eat
lunch with her in her room, well, that was co-ed living,
and I got to see co-ed living in its– ROCKEFELLER: Reality BOW: Reality, right. WICK: Somewhat messy. SEAMANS: Harsh extreme. BOW: Right, right. But received her PhD and went
on to– as a matter of fact, I think outstanding
water resource in, I think, in Washington,
I believe she is now. I have a Christmas card
from her now and then. But Margaret
MacVicar, of course, who started out
being quite social, and sailing, and doing
all the fun things, and then sort of said,
you know, hey, there’s a lot more here to be done. And just went ahead and did it. SEAMANS: Let’s go into a
little bit of her career. I think that’s interesting,
because of her long term, however shortened, career here. BOW: Yeah. Well, as I said, she
started out being active in sailing and
doing all the things that first year women students
were doing at the time. And then, all of a sudden, the
whole world opened up for her. This was a place where she
could be Margaret MacVicar and not play a role that
I think she was concerned about when she first came. So she did, I mean, she
just got into her academics. And she got into
opening up connections. Europe is a good example, where
she felt that there was just so much to be learned if you
could connect up with a lab, and work there, and be
part of what was going on. She was president of the
dormitory when it first opened, when McCormick first opened. And I remember her
coming into the office and asking me to
read her acceptance speech from Mrs. McCormick. Which was it was hard to
believe that a student had written this. It was just so
right to the point how important it was
for the women students to have this dormitory,
how much it meant to them. And then, of course, she
went on to do graduate work and on to Cambridge. I always remember her. To show what kind of
a person she was– she told me the story about
going to Cambridge. And how, when she came back,
she told me the story that, while she was there, you
remember Margaret kind of swung along and went anywhere she
wanted to and did most anything she really wanted
to learn about. But she walked across
the lawn at Cambridge, a lawn which people were
not supposed to walk across, at least students weren’t
supposed to walk across. And she didn’t know that. So she went– she was
called to her tutor’s office to explain why she walked
across this particular part of the green. And so she said, well, she
had to get from one place to the other. I mean, that was
the shortest way and that’s the way she went. And she was told that
that was not the way to go and that students weren’t
allowed to do that. So she decided that she should
call students together and stop this nonsense about where you
could walk on the Cambridge campus. However, I have a feeling
that it was not successful. In fact, when she
left Cambridge, students who are
still not allowed to walk across that lawn. But it was very typical
of the way Margaret– if there was something
that she didn’t see any purpose for doing,
then it ought to be challenged. And she did that. ROCKEFELLER: She was a product
of the late ’60s and Vietnam era and everything. And students were just
questioning authority. She was part of that era. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And that was
one of her great strengths. BOW: That’s right,
absolutely, absolutely. WILLIAMS: She was classes ’65,
but Europe started early ’70s. BOW: That was after
she came back. WILLIAMS: I know, but
still, amazingly short time. BOW: That’s right, when
she had something to do, she set about doing it. ROCKEFELLER: She’s very
methodical and organized. WICK: And she knew people. I mean, she– BOW: She would march into
Paul Gray’s office, when Paul was in the Dean’s Office,
and say I want to do this. And she had it all laid out. And what could he say? WICK: Because when I was
in the Dean’s Office, Paul Gray was the Dean
for the freshman class. So he was all part of the
Dean of Students team. ROCKEFELLER: Margaret
was totally fearless. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And
she was appreciated much more so in later
life and much more so on the outside than the inside. It took a long time before the
MIT community appreciated her. BOW: That’s right. ROCKEFELLER: And the people
that were closest to her in her department gave
her the most trouble. BOW: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And their
expectations of an academic was research and teaching. And Margaret was a leader. That was her focus. BOW: Walter Rosenbluth was
really very fond of Margaret. And in fact, understood– ROCKEFELLER: But he
was another visionary. BOW: That’s right, exactly. He was the same kind of person. ROCKEFELLER: He was sort of
cut out of the same cloth as– BOW: He understood her. And he could see what she
was trying to accomplish. ROCKEFELLER: But her colleagues
that were close to her had much more difficulty
in seeing the big picture about her. BOW: Yeah. WILLIAMS: Well, she’s
a real bridge figure, because there’s certainly people
in the Dean’s Office today who worked with her
closely and revere her. WICK: Oh, yes. WILLIAMS: She really kind of
connects that era with, really, with the present. ROCKEFELLER: Well,
she’s the one that did UROP not only at MIT,
but the whole country. WICK: Right, yes. ROCKEFELLER: This is
where it all started. And we’re thankful
that it’s started here. WICK: Absolutely. ROCKEFELLER: Because it’s
always worked the best here. And we have a few
competitors here and there. BOW: But it didn’t matter
where Margaret’s office was or any of what she
called trivial things. The point was to get to the goal
that she had set to accomplish. And none of these other
things were important. And I’ve often admired her
for being able to do that. She just cut away all the
things that didn’t need to be– WILLIAMS: It doesn’t
make for an easy life. BOW: That’s right. SEAMANS: It certainly
didn’t in her case. BOW: Yes, that’s right,
exactly, exactly. But we’ve had many
other outstanding women. SEAMANS: We talked about
Shirley Jackson a bit earlier. BOW: Yes, Shirley, yes. SEAMANS: Another
one who you would have known in those early days. It must have been fascinating
to meet that person as an undergraduate here. ROCKEFELLER: Yeah, I
guess you know her better than I did as an undergraduate. BOW: As an undergraduate, yeah. ROCKEFELLER: She took
a few courses with me, so I had the pleasure
of teaching her. I think you had much more
social interaction with her. BOW: During her
undergraduate years, yes. WICK: She dropped in
to see you often– BOW: Almost every day, yeah. WICK: Just about every day. BOW: Yeah. WICK: Part of the
luck of the office was, it was sort of on the
natural pathway from McCormick to wherever you were going. You just came in
the side building. WILLIAMS: Where was it? WICK: Just down the hall from– BOW: 5106. WICK: Yeah, 5016. So they could just duck
in the Naval architecture doorway, where the anchors are. And walk down the hall and talk. SEAMANS: That was
a perfect location. BOW: It was. And there were
times when you’d see someone go by with their
head down, clearly unhappy. And you could run out and walk
the rest of the way with them. WILLIAMS: When did
Shirley graduate? What’s her era? WICK: Well, she and Margaret
were about the same, whatever year that was. BOW: I guess we must have
been in the same– well, I guess Margaret might have
been a year or two ahead of her, yes. ROCKEFELLER: I think she was
about the same time as Aviva Brecher. WICK: Yes, yes. ROCKEFELLER: And they
were great friends. They were both in physics. BOW: Yes. And ROCKEFELLER: And they were
good support for each other. WILLIAMS: Were the
women students– ROCKEFELLER: So that
would be about 19– when I first came, they
both took classes from me. And I thing Aviva was
still an undergraduate. She must have been
about a senior. And she was taking
graduate courses. She was terrific. BOW: Yeah, outstanding. ROCKEFELLER: And a
lot of leadership. WICK: I don’t know
whether we could say– Shirley came in to celebrate
when she really passed– she really hit some big exam. I don’t know whether it
was physics and math, but she came in to
celebrate, lit up a cigar. WILLIAMS: Those were the days. WICK: We all kind of sat
around on the couch, and– BOW: There were
times, for instance, when a faculty member
would call and say, I have a woman student
who can’t take an exam. The tension is too great
in this room with all the– she was maybe the only
woman student in the class. Usually, that was the case. ROCKEFELLER: I
had one like that. BOW: And I would say,
with your permission, can she take the
exam in my office? And so that often happened. We had a little office
that wasn’t used much, or maybe some days Emily wasn’t
going to be in the office. She’d be in the department. And I would say,
with your permission, she can take the exam here. And that often happened. A student would– a faculty
member would bring the– and I’d proctor it, so to speak. They’d sit in the inner
office and take the exam. And there were, I think,
times when that helped. WILLIAMS: Was it the
female student who was– I mean, was it the men
who didn’t want to– who were the source
of the tension? Or the woman student? I don’t quite understand
where the request came from? BOW: I’m not sure. I think it was, at
the time, the student might have just been
feeling the pressure. I don’t think that was– WILLIAMS: Did the women
students do a lot of support for each other? ROCKEFELLER: Yes, a tremendous– it was unbelievable. And they still do. That hasn’t changed. That’s been our tradition. BOW: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: Shirley
Jackson was an unusual case, because she was the
oldest, or the most senior, I think, of the black students
here in physics, or close to the most senior. And she organized the
younger ones under her. And she did the mentoring
and the tutoring. And she got a whole
cadre, a whole generation of black students through. They wouldn’t have
passed without her. And they look up to her
like almost like a demigod. SEAMANS: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: She has a real
special place in our history. WICK: Oh, she does. BOW: Definitely. WICK: Still, I mean,
it’s still going on. I feel good when I
think of Sheila Widnall there, running the
Air Force, and– BOW: I do too. WICK: Shirley Jackson, the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I know, jeepers, there’s
some honest people that have good heads. SEAMANS: Finally,
we’re in safer hands. WICK: Yeah, we’re
in safer hands. ROCKEFELLER: With
technical skills. And also, good problem
solving skills. WICK: Absolutely. Human– BOW: Common sense. WILLIAMS: Humane people. ROCKEFELLER: Knowing both
sides of it, the technical side and the people side. There aren’t too many
people that can do that. WICK: Yeah, Vera Kistaovkosky
was on the faculty. And she had gone
to Mount Holyoke. She was the class behind me. And when we were undergrads,
her father would come to visit. He was good friends with the
faculty at Mount Holyoke. And that was all the time
when Los Alamos and all that was going on. And when he died, I felt the
world was not quite safe. I was wrong, but it was
another person that you felt– ROCKEFELLER:
Tremendous integrity. WICK: Trusted the integrity. ROCKEFELLER: Yes. WILLIAMS: Did Sheila play
an important role here? ROCKEFELLER: Oh, very much so. WILLIAMS: In either opening up
admissions or with the women faculty? ROCKEFELLER: She wasn’t so
much into the admissions thing. She came– her contributions
were many others, but it wasn’t so
much admissions. The athletics program– BOW: That’s correct. ROCKEFELLER: –was one area
that we owe a tremendous amount to her. Equal opportunities, overall,
was something that she did. SEAMANS: Along that line– ROCKEFELLER: And
in the early days, she was our Institute
problem solver. When there was something that– a faculty issue, not a
women’s issue, but just across the board– WICK: A human issue. ROCKEFELLER: A human issue. And I think some of that
experience came from the work that she did with
the women students. She was really outstanding. The fact is that
we don’t know about each other’s contributions so
well, because after you left, Emily, the two of
us, Sheila and I, divided many of the
responsibilities. WICK: I’m sure you did. ROCKEFELLER: And this was– we did this purposely, so that
if she was doing something, I wouldn’t do it. I had total confidence that
she would do a tremendous job. And likewise, if I did
something, she didn’t do it. WICK: Right. ROCKEFELLER: And so, therefore,
I don’t know as well– WICK: What was going
on in her corner. ROCKEFELLER: On her plate. But one thing that we did do– there were two things
that we did, that I think is important for the history. One of them has to do
with our Carnegie grant. And the other one is the
faculty tenure review. And I think you wanted to
hear about both of these. SEAMANS: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And they’re
somewhat connected. So Dottie worked very hard
on the Carnegie project. And so I’m sure
you can contribute much where I leave off. WICK: Okay. ROCKEFELLER: But in
1973, all of a sudden, we got a bunch of money. And there was some ground
rules about what we were supposed to use this money for. And maybe Dottie
can tell you better than I can what it was
supposed to be used for. But when we had the
money, we decided that we would use it for things
that would have some impact. So we did sort of most
everything against the rules. BOW: That’s right. [LAUGHTER] ROCKEFELLER: Well, I remember
that the rules basically was that faculty would take some– pay some of their
salary and we would do some kind of scholarly studies. And for most of us, we decided
that it was most important for us to be in the classroom. For most of the students
that I ever taught, I was the only female faculty
they would ever, ever see. And to keep me out
of the classroom was the worst thing that
Carnegie could ever do for MIT. And this was true of the others. So we just did our
own thing and we didn’t pay very much attention. And hopefully, the Carnegie– I’m not sure exactly
about the report, but we maybe should go back
to David Hamburg, who’s still around, would
appreciate the effect of this grant on MIT. Because it really
had a lot of things. So some of the
things I worked on was, we set up a
course, a subject– What is Engineering. And I want to give you
the bottom line of that. At the time we started– this was 1973, approximately– women were in selected
fields, but they were not in the engineering
school, by and large– very, very few, and they
weren’t doing too well. And we thought that we
should use resources that we had to get a better
distribution of women through the different
departments at MIT. So we set up this course. And we thought we would have
like about 10 or 15 students. And we would work on
Heath kits and get them more comfortable
with engineering things when they were freshmen,
so that they would be comfortable in going on
to the sophomore, et cetera, courses. Because freshman is sort
of a common curriculum. So this was kind of
what the idea was. So in the freshman year,
we set this course. And I did it one semester
and Sheila did it the other, we alternated. And we did this
about three years. And the first time
was offered, we had about 10 or 12
students, which is– the second semester, we had 100. And it went up from there. And we had a huge fraction
of the women students and even huger fraction
of the minority students. Just about all the
minority students would take this course. And so they would have
as role models Sheila and myself, when we were doing–
we’d do some of the classes. And then we got all
the great people at MIT who would come in
and give us guest lectures– Doc Draper, and Edgerton,
and all the great people. They would tell us
about their career. And those were just
marvelous stories. And this had a big impact
in the enrollments, because the people that came,
they decided all of a sudden that they could do it too. That was the message
of the course, that if you were
admitted to MIT, you could get a degree in almost
any department, certainly. There were many options for
you in the engineering school. So that led to many
very good careers. Another thing that
we set up from that was a faculty group, a
faculty luncheon group. It probably had a name,
but I can’t remember exactly what the name was. And we met about
approximately once a month, talking about issues for women
students, graduate students, faculty, et cetera. And we provided lunch. So that was what
the grant provided. I’m not sure that that was
supposed to be, but it was– BOW: [INAUDIBLE] ROCKEFELLER: But
it was important in getting our women– keeping the attendance up. And then once the usefulness of
these meetings was established, the attendance was quite good. And one of the
activities we had had to do with how to
get tenure at MIT. And what we discovered
from these monthly meetings is that the women faculty
got almost no information from their colleagues about
what it took to get tenure in their departments. And that most of the
people in the departments were obviously men,
and they didn’t feel all that comfortable
in discussing these kinds of issues with women. So if they weren’t doing so
well, they wouldn’t be told. And then pretty soon, that
tenure clock came around, and they wouldn’t make it. So we thought of ways to improve
the information, the fact sharing, information sharing. And we developed a technique. We had a sort of Mutt
and Jeff type show. And we took Sheila
Widnall’s resume. And she was the candidate–
we did a little play. And she was the candidate
that came up for tenure every time we ran this program. And I was the department head. And I would– I had been a department
head at that time, so I knew what the issues were. And Sheila had received
tenure, so we knew that this was a proven case. So then we went
through the resume. And we kept the resume at
the time she got tenure. So we could look to
see what counted. And we went through each of the
things– publications, grants, students, teaching, et cetera,
letters of recommendation. We went through all
the different things and how one prepares
one’s career to have a better shot at tenure. And also, the message that
if you did the right things to get tenure at MIT, you
were doing the right things for your career, that these
were one and the same thing. And we had sessions on how to
get grant proposals through, and all of these kinds
of useful things. SEAMANS: What years did
these start, approximately? ROCKEFELLER: Carnegie, 1973. And we did them for 10 years. BOW: Did we really? ROCKEFELLER: Yes. BOW: I didn’t realize
it was that long. ROCKEFELLER: We
did for 10 years. Because all the years,
through the time I was head of the
Material Center, I was chairing
this and staffing. In the beginning, you
staffed it and did the work to get the whole thing– BOW: To get it going. ROCKEFELLER: Because there
was a lot of staff work that was necessary– notices
sent out, and reserving rooms, and reserving meals. And all this sort of
nonsense to get the thing– SEAMANS: To put
it in perspective, how many were there in
that tenure track in ’73? ROCKEFELLER: Well the numbers
increased a great deal around 1970, in the early years. Because Wiesner had the– he was an original proponent
of affirmative action before it was ever– WICK: Ever, yes– ROCKEFELLER: Recognized, or
had a name, or a concept, or anything. SEAMANS: That “he”
we’re talking about? ROCKEFELLER: I’m talking
about Jerry Wiesner. He had it up in here. WICK: Yeah. ROCKEFELLER: And he
decided that women– he said that the
women faculty that we had had a very large
impact on the place. And he said that we
needed more of you. That you people were
just totally overloaded. You’ve heard him say that. WICK: Sure. ROCKEFELLER: You
remember that still. And he said that we
needed more people to help him to improve
the quality of life of all the students,
because he thought we had contributed not
only to the women students, but to all the students. BOW: Yes, he did. ROCKEFELLER: So there was a
sort of a hidden campaign. And about 1974, there was
some kind of committee that was appointed to try
to improve the recruitment of women faculty. I don’t know how well it
worked, but whatever means, the number increased. But the mentoring was
terrible in those years. So our faculty group mentored– that was what– we were a
support group, basically. And we were across
the whole Institute. And obviously, the requirements
in the engineering school are a little bit
different than humanities. I mean, I won’t argue that. But there was some irreducible– WICK: Principles, exactly. ROCKEFELLER: –principles. And the process was
mainly the same. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: It’s
an MIT process, so we explained all of that WILLIAMS: I remember attending
a year of luncheons when I first came to MIT. That was in the early ’80s. And I remember that quite well. And they were quite
well attended. BOW: Yes, they were
well attended, yes. ROCKEFELLER: Well, they had
some impact of increasing the probability of tenure. And toward the last
few years, when I thought it was time
that I could bow out of this, because it was
quite a bit of work, the probability of
women getting tenure, in proportion to the number
that we had in the pipeline, was equal to that of men. And when that happened, I
thought we were doing okay. BOW: Yeah, we’d done it, right. WILLIAMS: It also,
though, gave you an opportunity to meet
faculty in other departments and schools. BOW: That’s right WICK: That’s hard to do. WILLIAMS: That’s
difficult to do. ROCKEFELLER: I remember we
used to take on projects, like looking at the
undergraduate curriculum, and this and that, and what
the effect of pass-fail was, and we would talk about
Institute wide issues, because we were a
small enough group that we could focus on things. And I believe that was
appreciated by all the faculty. WICK: I think, probably. BOW: The Carnegie grant, we
did a lot of things with it. And it was originally, as you
said, set up in a certain way. And we decided that was not the
way that MIT ought to do it. And other schools that
received these grants had– ROCKEFELLER: There
were six schools. BOW: –had identified an office
and hired a person to sit there and to administer. And we decided that was
probably not the thing to do here, that we should
spread it around, and do some faculty, some students,
some variety of kinds of things. So we did have some
student interns who worked on projects with
women faculty, which was also a wonderful way to get– students who were interested
in physics, for instance, worked with Vera on a
project, and, I think, Millie and Sheila’s course. There are a variety
of things that we did with that– with those
funds, which spread them. They reached far more people
than they would have, had we set up an office
and just directed them in some sort of
administrative way. But we just sort of
flew in directions. And I think all of them– I think it was a useful– ROCKEFELLER: One
of our proteges– I’m not sure if she was exactly
in the original Carnegie or came a few years
later, but I set up, sometime in the ’70s, a lab at
one of the dorms, at McCormick. Do you remember that, Dottie? WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: That
was Denise Denton, and there was
another young lady. I’ve forgotten her name. And Denise became a very,
very young Dean of Engineering at a very large engineering
school, University of Washington, age 36. WICK: Oh, my goodness. ROCKEFELLER: Can
you imagine that? And what she learned
as an undergraduate, to begin with, and then
as a graduate student, was really quite amazing. Because she was
working with students, as an instructor when she
was still in undergraduate, setting up this lab course. And they ran it themselves. It was very effective. And then that
training allowed her, when she was a graduate
student, to help out with some teaching at one of
the neighboring colleges here. So by the time she graduated,
she had all this teaching skill and documentation. So it made it easy for her
to get a faculty position. And then she got tenure. And then from that,
went to this dean’s job. SEAMANS: At 36. ROCKEFELLER: 36. We really have an amazing
group of students. BOW: A group of women students. ROCKEFELLER: And
she’s another case that’s a little bit
like Margaret MacVicar. Where people judged her just
on her engineering achievement. But that wasn’t
the whole person. The whole person was all
the things she was doing. BOW: That’s why I
brought up previously that I would have loved to
see more of those people here on the faculty. It would have been
wonderful to be able to keep more of them,
which we just haven’t done. ROCKEFELLER: We’ve kept
quite a few of them. And what I’d like to say– I’d say it differently, Dottie. That as I go around the
country, here and there– WICK: I go and see them. ROCKEFELLER: I see
them everywhere. WICK: Missionaries. That’s true. ROCKEFELLER: They’re
missionaries. And I believe that the
leadership that they brought with them to their institutions
was kind of unique, because they weren’t used to
women with so much independence and knowing where they’re going. WICK: That’s right. BOW: Well, I appreciate
that, because I guess I just miss them. ROCKEFELLER: I
guess we need both. But many of them
are on our faculty. If you look at the– especially in the
Engineering School, you look where they come from. We have quite a few of our own. BOW: Let me go back to
Sheila for a minute. I was the first woman to be
on the Athletic Committee. And it was a time
when we were just trying to get facilities that
were available, and get– what do you call them– intramurals moved into the– what do you call the– WICK: You mean women in
an intramural system? BOW: Yeah, well we were trying
to get them into some other– into teams to be competitive
with other schools and so forth. It was a really difficult
task at the time. But I was on the committee
and was able to– we had some supportive faculty
members on the committee. But there was a time when
that wasn’t working very well. And the woman they hired
as the athletic director was just terrific, as far
as being an entrepreneur, and getting women excited, and
onto programs, and so forth. But she had crossed some of the
male staff members over there. And so it looked like
she was going to leave. In any case, I couldn’t
take on the job, because I was on the
committee, and it would look like I was playing too– So I asked Sheila if
she would look at that. Well, that’s all she needed. She just jumped right in
and got a group together of students who
were participating in all the different sports. And we came up with
another report, which I can’t give you the
date, but it certainly is worth reviewing. ROCKEFELLER: About 1977. BOW: Was it? Yeah, I know it was– ROCKEFELLER: That would
be about the time. WILLIAMS: It would have
been on equity in athletics. BOW: That’s right. That’s right. ROCKEFELLER: We had
it in a 1972 report, where Paula Stone
and [INAUDIBLE] were the co-chairman. We had a section on athletics. But that sort of preceded– BOW: That’s right. WILLIAMS: That was
the year Title IX. BOW: That’s right. WILLIAMS: Because
we’re just celebrating the 25th anniversary. BOW: Yes, we did. We did. We never really
struggled with Title IX. WICK: Correct. BOW: I think we’ve
always been able to– yes, we were always
headed off in some– but the sports
programs weren’t equal, in the sense that
some of the students felt that we weren’t teaching
those courses as well as we could have. But Sheila’s report,
I think, settled it. It’s never been an issue since. I mean, she addressed
all the right issues. She got all the right
people to jump in. And we met several times,
I remember, at McCormick. ROCKEFELLER: That
was a model report. BOW: And it was an
excellent report. ROCKEFELLER: I thought we did
a whole bunch of great reports. BOW: Well, that’s true. That was one that was– ROCKEFELLER: And each of
them had an impact, amazing. After that, when I
started doing things for the federal government in
our National Research Council and so forth, I thought
that all the reports should have equal impact. And it was hard to
beat these MIT reports. BOW: That’s right. The reports were so very– ROCKEFELLER: I really
learned a lot from this. BOW: And I think
would what would be a model report for
today, that kind of– but it’s intercollegiate sports
that I was trying to get out. Because there was a lack
of other teams to play. Because we weren’t in the
various sports programs. And we needed someone
to get us into them. And the woman who
was here at the time was not in that
kind of position. So we did hire then Jane
Betts, who came and, I think, just recently left. But was just great. I mean, she just knew her
way around the sports world, which none of us did. But Sheila was
really the person who made that go, made that work. ROCKEFELLER: And
she also made work on better facilities,
and locker rooms, and– BOW: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: And I remember
even the principle– equal tuition, equal treatment. BOW: She missed one– WILLIAMS: Lockers. BOW: She missed her little– she had a daughter, Anne. And one day we
were at a meeting, and we were really
making good progress. And everything was
coming together. And she looked at her
watch, and she said, I’ve just missed Anne, who
was her daughter, soccer game, and I have to get out
of here to go see that. So we knew she was encouraging
Anne to participate in soccer. WICK: You know, the
one thing, good reports have been written here. BOW: Yes. WICK: But they didn’t go to just
sort of faceless bureaucracy. There were people up there
that were reading the reports. BOW: They cared
about the reports. WICK: And listening. And if it hadn’t
been a good report, probably nothing
would have happened. But you do need– ROCKEFELLER: We had
our first bad report back in 1972 or something,
when Jerry Wiesner taught us how to reports. We didn’t repeat our mistakes. After all, we do learn. SEAMANS: From your
perspective now, which is, there is a unique perspective
collectively here, what does the next 50 years
mean for women at MIT? WICK: I wouldn’t
hazard to guess. Good things, probably,
and struggles. But challenges, but
that’s life, and that’s– all educational institutions
are up against real challenges. And so are the students
who go to them. ROCKEFELLER: And the
faculty who teach there. WICK: And the faculty. You know, it’s a real– it’s a very, very,
very important cause. And it’s got to
stay on equality, but it’s hard to predict
how it’s going to turn out. But I have my faith
that people that work hard and have good brains,
something will come of it. BOW: I still work with a
women’s independent living group as an advisor. And I’m always very
impressed when I go there, how much in stride
they take things that maybe some years ago
were not taken in stride. I think these things are– they deal with
things, and they don’t feel that they have to run
for help for everything. They feel they can deal
with it as a group. SEAMANS: Very capable. BOW: Very capable of managing
their own affairs and taking– ROCKEFELLER: Their expectations
are similar to the men, and we didn’t have
that 25 years ago. BOW: Yes, yes. And I think the fact that
there are alumni of that group, that they invite
back every year and– I just went to their banquet,
which was very impressive. People who said
how much they loved being at MIT, how
much it had meant to them and their careers. And living there had been– it’s a real tribute to
what’s happening here. I think that’s a good message. WILLIAMS: I guess
one challenge is to get the faculty and
graduate students more in sync with the undergraduate
experience here. Because there still
is a disparity, just in sheer numbers. BOW: Yes. WILLIAMS: The critical mass is
a very different critical mass in each of those layers. ROCKEFELLER: That
will come with time. BOW: Yes, it should. ROCKEFELLER: In a way,
we have to look and see where the graduate
students are coming from. Within our own place, we’re
40 some percent women, for the undergraduates. You know the numbers
better than I do. But we only accept a small
number of our own students for the graduate program. And when you look
around the rest of the country or the
world, the percentage of women in these various fields
that we specialize in here is a smaller number than our
own undergraduate population. So we could expect– we cannot expect that the
numbers would be the same. So we’ll have to wait a
while for that to happen. WILLIAMS: That’s where 50
years will make a difference. WICK: Yeah, right. ROCKEFELLER: And likewise,
for faculty ranks. I think it’s the same thing. And we should just continue
to advocate some measure of affirmative action. WICK: Yes. ROCKEFELLER: As we have. And it seems to work. Because we have enough women
out there, that when they come, they participate
in the mainstream. And by and large, they do
just as well as the men do. And we– it’s a matter of time. It’s not easy being a
faculty member here. WICK: Oh, no. ROCKEFELLER: The
demands are great. WICK: Oh, yes. ROCKEFELLER: And
this has nothing to do with the Institute
and regulations. But the pace here is intense. And it’s hard to
combine family life and try to have an
international career. WICK: Right. ROCKEFELLER: It’s
really hard to do that. And the problem is
that it all hits you at the same age group– 25 to 35 is the critical
time for all of us. And we don’t have the
answer to that one. And it’s not an MIT– WICK: No, it’s a worldwide– ROCKEFELLER: –problem. It hits us the most, because
we’re so intense here. Makes it more difficult.

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