Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Because she could

This post borrows material found on Shorpy.


What did teenage girls learn in 1927?

In Washington DC's Central High School, for some, the curriculum included auto repair.

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February 9, 1927. Central High School, Washington, D.C. 
"High school girls learn the art of automobile mechanics. 
Grace Hurd, Evelyn Harrison and Corinna DiJiulian, 
with Grace Wagner under the car."

Does this picture make you wonder what educators were thinking, way back in 1927? What possible use could automotive knowledge have for a teenage girl living 83 years ago

The girl in the middle, Evelyn Harrison, answered this question by becoming the "...first girl ever to enroll for a degree in engineering at the University of Maryland", according to a Washington Post article dated November 10, 1928.

The Post reported on June 12, 1932 that Evelyn was "popular in class". The piece viewed her as a sign of good things to come in America's future: "Ye who look with incredulity on the future of American youth, hearken to the tale of Evelyn Harrison, the first woman to be graduated in civil engineering from the University of Maryland."

According to a post on Shorpy, she "...went on to a career working for the federal government. In 1955 she was named a Deputy Director of the Civil Service Commission. President Kennedy personally presented her with the Federal Woman's Award in 1962. By 1967, she rose to become the highest ranking woman at the Civil Service Commission. She retired in 1971."

Auto repair was a salient part of the education of a girl who became a feminist trailblazer. Food for thought as we ponder educational priorities in the 21st century. Has your school system slashed or killed auto shop? Are school administrators planning to do so? Developing hands-on skill instills self-confidence and inspires big goals. Auto shop enabled Evelyn to make history over 80 years ago.

I'm sure you're wondering about the 5th name in the photo (the car), in fact, you must be dying to know what is was. Great! (glad you asked)

One of the joys of Shorpy is its deeply knowledgeable user base. The car is none other than a Stephens Salient Six, which was produced by the Moline Plow Company of Freeport, Illinois from 1916 to 1924.

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You may now return to 21st century concerns about the future of American youth and why it's so difficult to find a decent auto mechanic.

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