In 1919, Lou Alta Wilson and Hilda Counts got this response from the University of North Carolina:
“In reply to your recent communication, I would state that we have not now, have never had, and do not expect to have in the near future, any women students registered in our engineering department.”
At the time, the two women were trying to start the American Society of Women Engineers and Architects and looking for members.
The letters found in the Society of Women Engineers’ archives show the challenges women in engineering have overcome in education since then.
“Almost 100 years later now, women are certainly being accepted into engineering programs across the U.S., but we’re still graduating in fewer numbers than our male counterparts,” said Jessica Rannow, president of SWE and project manager at AmerisourceBergen.
Women were awarded 19.9 percent of all Bachelor’s degrees awarded by an engineering program in 2015 and made up 21.4 percent of undergraduates enrolled in engineering.
Melton and Counts actually did discover some women indeed were enrolled. SWE’s archives contain the results of thier survey, which identified 139 women from 23 institutions who had taken college courses in engineering or architecture.
Wilson and Counts sent letters to more than just to North Carolina. To see what other colleges and universities had to say to the women, and links to scans of full letters, click here.