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‘So I Follow in the Footsteps of …’

Visual Arts From Visionary Members

“So I follow in the footsteps of Lillian Gilbreth. Hope I can do as well,” mused then-Commander Grace Murray Hopper, Ph.D., in a handwritten note to SWE at the bottom of a 1972 letter welcoming her to the National Academy of Engineering. The NAE was founded in 1964 to provide engineering leadership and expert advice to the United States government in support of the nation’s welfare. As the second woman elected to the NAE, following Dr. Gilbreth’s election in 1965, Dr. Hopper and her pioneering career in computer programming and the U.S. Navy certainly met the purpose of the NAE and left her own remarkable footprints in engineering history.

SWE hoped that its members elected to the NAE would tread a professional path for many more women to follow. “In your position in the Academy, one of the contributions that you could make is to suggest or recommend women who have been outstanding in their fields to serve on various committees,” SWE President Naomi McAfee, F.SWE, wrote in a 1974 letter congratulating SWE senior member (and future Achievement Award recipient) Mildred Dresselhaus, Ph.D., on her election to the NAE. “I realize this is a really long range plan, but it is only through that type of activity that we will eventually get the visibility required.”

– Troy Eller English, SWE Archivist

‘so I Follow In The Footsteps Of …’
Dr. Grace Murray Hopper’s election to the NAE was just one of the honors she received that year. In her April 1972 note to SWE she wrote, “In addition to this & the [honorary] Dr. of Science…today, I received the Legion of Merit from the Navy! What a fine spring.”
‘so I Follow In The Footsteps Of …’
“For the past three years SWE has been actively trying to infiltrate the National Academy of Engineering without success,” President Naomi McAfee, F.SWE, explained in the May 1973 SWE Newsletter. She noted, however, that shortly after signing a liaison agreement with the National Society of Professional Engineers that spring, SWE had received multiple requests from the NAE for names of qualified women engineers to sit on its committees and programs. “It appears that the profession needed for SWE to make some overt move to show that it was willing and strong enough to stand and be counted for those things in which it believes — equality of opportunity based on ability — promotion and advancement based on demonstrated capability. This it has done.”