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Scientific American Cover 1896

An article about women engineers, published in 1908, has a promising start: If women are attending technical schools and are not legally blocked from working in a forge or firm, why do they face so many obstacles to employment? A reader in 2020 who discovers such a socially progressive question in the archives of Scientific American anticipates a discussion of sex discrimination. Perhaps women such as Emily Warren Roebling, who took over her husband's role as chief engineer on construction of the Brooklyn Bridge after he became bedridden, will be held up for their contributions to the field. Surely the article will feature the voice of Nora Stanton Barney, who had recently fought to become the first woman accepted as a junior member in the American Society of Civil Engineers and was active in the suffrage movement.

Alas, no. Author Karl Drews explains it simply: the obstacles “are inherent in the nature of the case and are due to women's comparative weakness, both bodily and mental.” He elaborates: “The work of the engineer is creative in the highest sense of... see more