The Men Who Took Us Seriously

By Troy Eller English, SWE Archivist

“We took ourselves very seriously,” Evelyn Jetter recalled of the Society’s founding members during the 1968 convention, “and kept looking around to see if anyone else also took us seriously.” One of the people who did, she explained, was Rodney Chipp, husband of the Society’s first president, Beatrice Hicks. After his passing in 1966, members honored his legacy through donations and the establishment of the Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award to recognize men who worked “not only for the enhancement of women in engineering,” explained 1968 newsletter editor Lee Arnold, “but for enlargement and enlightenment of the engineering profession, from which all members, both men and women, must benefit.”

Although not admitted as members until 1976, since the Society’s earliest days male allies have served as role models, created professional opportunities for women, served as advocates for their female colleagues, and otherwise enlarged and enlightened a male-dominated field that has often been unwelcoming to women.

Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award

President Lydia Pickup presents the first Rodney D. Chipp Memorial Award to Col. Clarence E. Davies at a banquet in 1968. Davies was a friend of the Society who, as coordinator for the United Engineering Building, helped raise SWE’s profile by securing office space for it when the UEC opened in 1961.

black and white 1961 photo 2 men in suits sitting

Men’s Auxiliary Founders

Floydd Martin and Bud White, founders of the Men’s Auxiliary, Society of Women Engineers (MASWE), relax poolside during the 1968 national convention in Los Angeles. The husbands of Society president Alice (Morgan) Martin and executive secretary Winifred White, they founded MASWE in 1967 to support the Society by fundraising, driving high school girls to engineering career nights, and everything in between.

pitt at swe archive looking through books black and white image

Elaine Pitts finds a male ally

SWE members have found male allies in unusual places. In her 2001 SWE oral history interview, Elaine Pitts recalled attending Society of Packaging and Handling Engineers meetings on the 22nd floor of the Builders Building in Chicago, which did not have women’s restrooms for many decades. When told by a manager that she would have to use an empty restroom 11 floors below, her male peers declared, “One of us will stand outside the john [on the meeting floor] and you can just go in.”