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March 1, 2013

Purdue Libraries exhibit honors pioneering women in engineering

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Division of Archives and Special Collections will celebrate Purdue women who helped pave the way for future generations of female engineers with an archival exhibit.

"Women at Work: Celebrating the Legacy of Purdue Women Engineers" is on display from Monday (March 4) through July 31 in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center. As part of the celebration, alumna and former Purdue trustee Susan Bulkeley Butler, who has made several contributions to Purdue Libraries' Division of Archives and Special Collections and many other areas throughout the university, will be honored with the Outstanding Contribution to Women's Archives Award. Butler will be honored during an invitation-only ceremony on Monday (March 4) in the Karnes research center, which is on the fourth floor of the Humanities, Social Science and Education Library in Stewart Center.

"We are incredibly grateful for Susan Butler’s steadfast support in helping build this collection from the ground up," said Stephanie Schmitz, the France A. Córdova archivist for the Susan Bulkeley Butler Women's Archives. "Without Susan, there wouldn’t be a women’s archives. Her passion and enthusiasm for women’s history at Purdue has ensured that the legacies of many Purdue women will be remembered for generations to come."

In 1969 the university established the Women in Engineering at Purdue program, the first of its kind in the nation. The exhibit honors female students, faculty and staff who have broken new ground for women in the field that remains male-dominated.

The exhibit displays archival photographs, documents and memorabilia detailing the lives and careers of well-known alumnae such as Lillian Gilbreth and Janice Voss. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were renowned as "the Father and Mother of Modern Management," and their motion study work continues to interest and attract researchers. The Gilbreths' research introduced using photography and motion pictures to study and improve the efficiency of industrial workers and minimize worker fatigue. The couple also raised 12 children together, and the story of their family life has been recounted in numerous journal articles, books and films, notably "Cheaper By the Dozen." Lillian Gilbreth became a professor of management at Purdue in 1935 and later donated many of her husband's papers and belongings to Purdue Libraries. 

One of Purdue's 23 astronauts, Voss had logged five spaceflights, spending a total of 49 days in space and traveling 18.8 million miles in 779 Earth orbits. From 2004 to 2007, she served as the science director for the Kepler spacecraft at NASA's Ames Research Center. Voss, who died last February, had also served as the payloads lead of the Astronaut Office's Station Branch.

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu

Source: Stephanie Schmitz, 765-494, 2904, sschmit@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Journalists wishing to cover a 5 p.m. reception for Women at Work: Celebrating the Legacy of Purdue Women Engineers, can contact Jim Bush at 765-494-2077 or jsbush@purdue.edu. Alumna and former trustee Susan Bulkeley Butler will be honored with the Outstanding Contribution to Women's Archives Award at the event in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center.