Alexis Jetter talks about 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 exploring 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.
Find “Our Mothers Were the Shining Stars:” Perspectives on the Founders of the Society of Women Engineers, From a Daughter Who Grew Up Among Them on all major podcast apps, or listen online on the Reuther Library’s podcast website.