Society of Women Engineers archivist Troy Eller English shares the tragicomic story of Lucille Pieti, 1950 mechanical engineering alum and Miss Wayne University. Sidelined in technical writing despite her degree and experience, Pieti found her career veering farther and farther away from engineering in the mid-1950s as her bosses at Chrysler capitalized on her beauty rather than her brains. Molded into a spokeswoman at auto shows and in Hollywood, and giving specs on the Dodge La Femme’s pink umbrella instead of its engine block, Pieti reclaimed her engineering identity by leaving Chrysler, and the country, in 1955.
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace
Alexis Jetter discusses her long-running project, a memoir unraveling the life and death of her mother Evelyn Jetter, a physicist, engineer, and in 1950 a founder of the Society of Women Engineers. After writing a master’s thesis and article in the 1980s that explored whether her mother’s death at age 52 was caused by her work with radiation at the Atomic Energy Commission and other companies — from the 1940s through 1970s — Alexis felt a growing desire to better understand Evelyn’s career in relation to her private life. Alexis describes her experience growing up in mid-century America among the founding members of SWE, brilliant women who found a way to enmesh their professional lives as engineers with their personal lives as women and mothers. Alexis also decodes the symbiotic professional and personal relationship between Evelyn and SWE’s founding president, Beatrice Hicks, who hired Evelyn as a consultant when she left the workforce for 12 years to raise her four children, an act emblematic of the “sisterhood” that SWE engendered in its early years. Alexis Jetter is a journalist and lecturer at Dartmouth College.