Mar 4, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
1917. That’s when women were first allowed to pursue an education at Georgia Tech.
Since then, women have impacted Tech in many ways. And, as part of Women’s History Month, we've asked Marilyn Somers, director of the Georgia Tech Living History program, to share some of her favorite moments.
“Knowing who came before us helps us appreciate where we are now,” Somers said. “It also reminds us that against all odds, our alumnae have done some amazing things.”
Here are Somers's top 10 ways women have left their mark on Tech:
- The beginning. In 1917, the School of Commerce was the first school to allow women to enroll in their night school. The school was later transferred to the University of Georgia by the Board of Regents.
- A student and then a teacher. In 1919, Anna Teitlebaum Wise was the first woman to graduate from the School of Commerce. She then went on to be Tech’s first female instructor in the same program in which she studied.
- Breaking down barriers. President Van Leer and his wife, Ella, lobbied both the campus community and the Board of Regents for nearly 10 years until women were admitted in 1952. However, women were only allowed to enroll in majors that weren’t available at other state universities. Until 1968, women could only earn an engineering or architecture degree from Tech.
- Everyone needs a mentor. Dorothy Crosland, a Tech librarian for nearly 50 years, mentored the first female students, employing Shirley Mewborn in the library throughout her college career. This allowed Mewborn, who earned a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering in 1956, to afford her education and graduate as the second woman to earn a Tech degree. Mewborn went on to become the first female president of the Alumni Association.
- Creating a community. When women needed a place to live while attending classes, Ella Van Leer offered her home near campus to female students and introduced Tech’s first sorority, Alpha Xi Delta.
- Beating the system. Before women were allowed to earn degrees from the Chemistry Department, Jean McDowell Ray managed to gain admission in 1961 by using only her initials (vs. her full name) on her application. She was in the program for a few days before she was dismissed by the head of the department. However, Ray reapplied to the Board of Regents, and was admitted as a Chemistry student in 1963.
- Good sports. In 1974, women’s basketball was the first women’s sport at Tech to receive varsity status.
- Blazing trails. After she earned a master’s degree in Architecture from Tech in 1977, Ivenue Love-Stanley became the first black female architect in the Southeast. Love-Stanley now works at a firm she co-founded with her husband known as Stanley, Love-Stanley, P.C. She also worked for 15 years to get Atlanta's West End neighborhood recognized as a historic district.
- New traditions. In 1984, Lisa Volmar, who graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, was the first woman to drive the Ramblin’ Wreck at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Now, she is the senior director of Product Development for Insurance at TransUnion, a credit reporting agency.
- Setting new records. Susan Still Kilrain, a space shuttle pilot who earned a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1985, was part of the first shuttle crew to fly back-to-back missions. Their first flight in 1997 was cut short, so NASA sent the whole crew into orbit again three months later.
For more information about women and Tech’s history, visit livinghistory.gatech.edu.