The Woman Engineer 1.4 (September 1920)
In the early period of The Woman Engineer, title pages or early content pages would boast a photo of women engineers in action, or facilities that allowed women to apprentice or work. The “Notes” pages (seen here on pp. 32-33) would encompass a range of items of interest, from conference, exhibition, and public lecture announcements, to discourse on the legal status of women engineers, to meeting notes from the latest W.E.S. council session, to any mention of a W.E.S. gaining professional accreditation.
While later issues were more thoroughly and confidently saturated with articles about the mechanics of various engineering processes, these early years involved establishing legitimacy for the continued existence of the “woman engineer” at all. To this end, articles more often addressed how women functioned in various engineering facilities, and compared women’s competency to that of men by outlining areas of special expertise for women. The Woman Engineer even published pieces about areas or debates in which women were determined to be less efficient and intelligent workers, and often let these critical remarks stand without editorial amendment—as if to give a stronger impression of the professional impartiality of the organization on whole.
Other pieces fixated on the appropriate training for female persons, and other ways to correct acculturation that in the past had rendered them unfit for significant engineering roles. A major feature in the early years of The Woman Engineer was also “Views of Distinguished Engineers” (seen here on p. 34), in which a reputable male engineer would be invited to discuss his views on the admission of female engineers into this industry’s ranks, including how he might have overcome his initial reluctance with the idea, and what he thinks should be done to improve the status of women within engineering circles.
Also of note for this young publication is the ad content: Later years predominantly advertise specific materials manufacturers, training schools, and patent offices to women engineers who are, at that time, more independently enterprising and directly engaged in a wide range of professional practices. In 1920, however, women are still struggling for apprenticeships and access to education, so the paper’s ad focus on reading materials for women to study on their own, as well as insurance policies to ensure that women have a fall-back when they find themselves removed from a postwar marketplace aggressively excluding women, powerfully resonates with the concerns in the body of those same issues of The Woman Engineer.
Finally, early issues of The Woman Engineer always close with a declaration of the Women’s Engineering Society’s aims and objectives—a declaration that drops off in later issues in lieu of further ad content. This transition appears quite naturally, inasmuch as later issues more confidently address what female engineers are actually achieving in various industries. In the early issues of this publication, the primary concern was establishing a right to exist, to associate, and discuss relevant topics for “women engineers” at all.
- Notes by Maggie Clark.