Up | Down | Top | Bottom A Series of Firsts: Anne Natvig

Anne Campbell Natvig

Anne completed a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Math and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Mechanics in 1956 and a Master of Science in Engineering Mechanics in 1957. She worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories, as an instructor at the Marquette University College of Engineering, and as managing abstract editor for the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Anne has three daughters.

Growing Up

Listen to Anne describe her family and their associations with U of M.

KW: Can you tell me a little bit about what your family was like when you were growing up, brothers, sisters? What did your parents do?

AN: Yes, I'd be very happy to say that l had wonderful parents. My father was a banker. He was eventually the president of the bank in a small town. My mother had trained as a vocalist, soprano, and my father actually studied at Michigan and Northwestern, but not with a degree. He came to Ann Arbor several summers and studied with Palmer Christian. who was the organist at the Presbyterian Church at that time. Now, I'm talking before l was born, the 1920s. My father served in World War I in the Army ambulance corps. Actually, this was kind of funny; he was a wonderful keyboard artist like his mother on both piano and pipe organ and two weeks before he was to ship out for France in the ambulance corps they discovered he could type and they sent him to Newport News in hospital administration. It was nice for him. I'm the youngest of three, the only living one of three at this time. My brother was 13 years older than I. He had a degree in economics from the University of Michigan, in 1943, the time of Tom Harmon and one of the Wistert Boys. My sister did go here for a year and then transferred to another state college for a degree in education and did get a master's degree. My brother had a master's degree also from the Stonier School of Banking at Rutgers. There no other university in the world, in our family, except the University of Michigan. I listened to football games when I was five years old sitting on a little ottoman in front of an Atwater Kent radio. You know, the days of no TV, one radio in the house, and I was cheering for Michigan at the time. I could even sing "The Victors" at that age! Of course, my brother came down here when I was five. There was no question of what school I was going to go to: University of Michigan. Academics were stressed, but it was always do your best, whether you were playing the piano or tennis.

KW: What, in your family?

AN: Yes. whatever you did, you tried to do your best. You were urged, there was no pressure, but my parents were excellent examples. Actually, you might say I really almost grew up as an only child, being the youngest. My sister was five years older than I so she was gone before I was even in...we were always good friends, but didn't know each other that well.

Listen to Anne talk about how she became interested in science and engineering due to an influential high school teacher.

KW: So, would you say were you then the only one interested in sciences, engineering out of your family?

AN: Yes.

KW: What made you become interested?

AN: Well, Michigan led up to that, too, plus I had a wonderful, wonderful math and science teacher.

KW: I was going to ask you about that.

AN: In high school, just an absolutely wonderful fellow. I did not have him for chemistry because they brought in a different chemistry teacher, but I had him for all math courses and for a high school senior course in physics and he was a huge influence. When I was a junior, he got a notice of an open house in the engineering college here in Ann Arbor and asked four or five of us if we wished to attend, he would bring us down on a Saturday. He drove us down. I guess they trusted him. That was the first I knew that Michigan had an engineering math course, which is what I wanted. I'll tell you something I would never say to any theoretical mathematician. The engineering math course is like applied mathematics. You learn the same things but as an example: when you learn something called Green's Theorem, you prove it, prove it, okay. Then you use it! And a practical mathematician uses Green's Theorem, which is what I did in all my courses. But a theoretical mathematician, say from the lit. school, proves it and worries about it for ten months or ten years or something like that. So, that was wonderful. That was the day I decided I am going to be an engineer.

KW: When you came to the campus?

AN: Yes, as a junior.

University of Michigan

Listen to Anne discuss why she changed her path from engineering physics to engineering mechanics.

AN: I said, "I'm going down there." I did do so and registered, only in engineering math, with the idea I would eventually pick up two degrees, probably engineering physics. I know I'm getting ahead of the time.

KW: Oh, no.

AN: When I was a sophomore taking Strength of Materials with a wonderful professor, Dr. John van der Broek. I loved Strength of Materials! (Statics, strength of materials, dynamics and fluid dynamics make up the four branches of engineering mechanics.) Dr. van der Broek asked me to come into his office after class and asked, "Would you work with me on some extra things? You will get credit for it." That started me in engineering mechanics instead of engineering physics. That was how I got into engineering mechanics.

KW: Would you say that, since your parents always had this, you know, just do your best in whatever you're doing, were friends and family pretty supportive then of you doing engineering?

AN: They were.

Listen to Anne tell her story about rushing with her parents from the Oreon E. Scott award ceremony to the President's house for afternoon tea.

KW: What were your friends at the time doing? What were girlfriends doing, were they also going to U of M?

AN: No, only two came down here to UM. The University of Michigan had a reputation. This was a Class B high school and Class B at that time there were only seventy some in my graduating class, seventy-two, seventy-three, something like that. Usually you'd get one, maybe two that would come to Michigan. The rest went to Michigan State because, quite frankly, they didn't have the academic status that Michigan required. People just knew I was going to Michigan and I didn't make a big deal about going into the engineering college. My parents, especially my father, were both very, very supportive. No problem whatsoever and of course they were just delighted in doing the right thing because years later they came down for all the Honor Councils and I was I was an honor council rep my junior and senior years. At that time, Professor Van der Broek set us up. We were invited to their home for coffee and they had a wonderful time. My senior year, spring of '55, we were the hosts and hostesses at the President's house. That was the year that I received the Oreon E. Scott Award for outstanding science. It's a Webster's unabridged dictionary, and the last year Oreon E. Scott actually was there to present the awards. He was very old. We had to go from there, which at that time was the lit. school offices. I don't know what it is now. It's next to the Union. We had to go from there down to the President's house and I remember there's no time to go back to the car with this big tome. I remember walking up the steps and meeting the President's wife. I said, "Do you mind if we hide this someplace?" "Oh, no, of course not, no problem." I'll always remember that. I use that a lot. I love dictionaries.

KW: That is a nice looking dictionary. That's a good idea to give.

Listen to Anne describe living in Helen Newberry, the ΑχΩ house, and an apartment.

KW: Where did you live on campus?

AN: Freshman year I lived in Helen Newberry. Loved it. I chose Helen Newberry because it was small, because my sister had lived in Helen Newberry when she was a freshman and I liked its proximity to State Street. So even though I had to go across campus to engineering, I loved Helen Newberry and then I pledged. I was ΑχΩ and our house was out on Olivia, sort of kitty-corner from what used to be the old field house, counter-corner of Olivia and Cambridge. I think it became, later, because we built, the Alpha Chis after I left, built a house on Washtenaw, but now they're on Hill St. Yeah, I lived down Olivia.

Listen to Anne discuss the University's rules for women and her interactions with male classmates.

KW: Were you at all daunted by the prospect of...you know, you might be the only girl in a lot of your classes?

AN: No.

KW: No? I would be daunted.

AN: No, you couldn't be. There were three, including myself, in our orientation class, a week before classes began. The University served in loco parentis. You have to understand what things were like in the '50s and several years beyond that. No cars unless you lived in Ann Arbor. Women's hours: 10:30 weeknights, Friday and Saturday, 12:30. You signed out and you signed in at night and God forbid that you'd come in late, I guess. So, they kept track of you quite well. When we came down for orientation, we had to have a complete physical. l can remember, Barbour Gym was still in existence then. It was later torn down when they built the new chemistry building. Barbour Gym was the women's gym and Waterman, next door, was the men's gym. We ran around that gym during orientation week in just skimpy little hospital gowns flapping in the back taking all sorts of examinations from doctors. They even had you step in water to check the arches on your feet and looked carefully at your fingernails. It was quite thorough.

KW: That's pretty rigorous.

AN: Well, they were being parents. And then we had to take courses. Once a week we had to go to Haven Hall, I think, which burned down, there's no Haven Hall, and take a health lecture. It was required. You had to go and they took attendance. And they warned you *gasp* about all sorts of things that would happen if one did this or didn't do that. So it was an entirely different...

KW: Yes, it was kind of a time when the college sort of took on the role of parent is what you're saying.

AN: Yes, like local parents. We didn't mind. I didn't mind the hours. If there was work to do, so what. No, it wasn't bad. By the way, in retrospect, there were also times that I needed cash. l cashed a check for ten dollars that lasted quite a while. Where Borders now is downtown was Jacobsen's with the Michigan Theater across the street. The State Theater was a regular movie theater, not upstairs like it is now. You probably could go to the movies for thirty cents maybe thirty-five cents. I know when I was a kid and was allowed to go to matinees it was ten cents then twelve. No, l didn't mind being the only girl that I knew of at that time in engineering. The gal who was our orientation leader, I think was a junior in metallurgical engineering and I don't remember seeing her that often, although she would have been mostly in East Engineering and I was mostly in West Engineering. There were three of us freshman, one gal, left after two or three weeks. The other gal, who I knew fairly well, transferred out after the first semester. Incidentally, the other fellow who came down to Michigan from my high school, also in engineering, left after his first semester, too. He had trouble with chemistry. The University had recently added an advanced chemistry course for engineers, Chem. 5E, with admittance by passing a comprehensive orientation test. This 5-hour credit, one-semester course would replace the regular two-semester 4-hour credit courses. I went to the chemistry auditorium to take this test, having had chemistry when I was a junior in high school I was willing to see what I retained. I showed up for the test at the appointed time and walking into the building, I saw hundreds of fellows cramming with chemistry books galore. I had my pencil and slide rule. Well, this other fellow from Caro passed that test, but failed the course and transferred after one semester into education. I missed passing the test by one point and was very happy to pick up 8 hours of A's in two semesters of chemistry. So, my other friend, the gal who left alter one semester, probably did not "flunk" out. I don't know what her grades were, but students who come to Michigan are usually accustomed to excellence, the valedictorians, etc., getting excellent high school grades and they get to Michigan, hit a tough spot and come out a with a "C". That's like flunking, you know, so I was left alone. I'll bet you, I have no proof, just speculation, I'll bet you anything that both men students and professors had a little pot, betting on how long each woman would last, days, weeks, months.

KW: Yeah, they really did?

AN: They lost on me and certainly others, I'm sure. But no, it was fun. After that you reaped the rewards because the fellows who scoffed at you were the first ones then to come and ask you a question or ask for help. This was true even in my freshman algebra class. It was a big class and I should have been excused, but they didn't do that. I had fellow students that came from Grosse Pointe High who touted its reputation as one of the best high schools and so on and so forth. After a few weeks we'd walk out of the lecture and they'd ask "Do you know what he's talking about?" That is when I started tutoring them and it all turned around. Eventually, l was accepted just as any student, but you had to prove yourself.

KW: Yeah, I was just going to say there is sort of a...you had to say, look, I can do it and then you get kind of accepted.

Barbour Gynasium in foreground, ca. 1950-1960

Barbour Gynasium in foreground, ca. 1950-19601

Listen to Anne talk about campus life including meeting Fritz Crisler when she worked on the University Calendar Committee.

KW: The next thing I want to ask you about is, you kind of touched on this when you were talking about movies. You were also saying that the girl could kind of be one of the guys in, like, you could be friends with a guy and he didn't have to be your boyfriend. So, I was going to ask you about the social atmosphere. What kind of things did you like to do on weekends or when you had a day off if you weren't studying, which I'm sure you were.

AN: No. I wasn't a "greasy grind". I had lots of time. I did my work and understood it. As a freshman, it's kind of hard because you're getting to know people. I knew a senior fellow from my hometown and we would meet for coffee, go to movies, long walks, etc.

KW: Did you hang out then with a lot of girls on weekends because you lived more with girls than with guys?

AN: No, no. That's a very hard question. l think it was divided.

KW: So, basically, there was nothing wrong if you were to go hang out with your favorite guy friends?

AN: Sometimes. Sometimes. I'd probably say I was just a regular girl. I had dates, went to fraternity parties, but most of my coffee klatches were with fellow engineers. I spent hours canoeing down the Huron with a fellow engineering student, played lots of tennis and then when I joined the sorority, we had an intramural basketball team, bowling, and tennis.

KW: It sounds like fun. It sounds like you had...

AN: And baseball. You know, I was a pretty good baseball player; a pretty good catcher, fast pitch.

KW: Aside from the sorority, were you involved in other clubs or organizations on campus?

AN: No, especially not as a freshman, and not unless they were academic. As you get older, of course. I was invited to the Honors Convocation in my freshman year. I didn't even know what it was about, especially ΑΛΔ.

KW: What's that?

AN: Well, that's the freshman honorary. And then in my junior year I was honored as a woman's badge member of ΤΒΠ that is the ΦΒΚ for engineering. I also had been very active on the Michigan Technic, our glossy magazine. I was the illustrations editor at one time and that kept me busy for extracurricular activities. If I can get you my scrapbook, I can show you a picture that was taken in the old little Technic office room, second floor of West Engin. I spent a lot of time there in that office and then working, grading papers for the professors. I was asked as a junior to be on the Honors Convocation Committee. This started actually in my sophomore year and they had a fellow at that time from engineering school and the gal from lit. school. We were the apprentices when we came in as juniors and the perfect time to choose a gal from engineering. We served for two years. We really didn't do that much except appear on the stage and suggest guest speakers. I was also asked to serve on the Calendar Committee for the whole university. That's when I met Fritz Crisler. We met in a conference room in Angell Hall, foreign territory to me of course. I can't tell you how many members were there. It was a big table and I usually sat down at one end of the table where Fritz Crisler liked to sit, right at that end of that table. He was then the Athletic Director. Every time we talked about the calendar for the fall semester, everyone looked at Crisler because you had to know when the football season started, when fall practice began. He was a nice man. He was very quiet.

Listen to Anne talk about attending the U of M football and hockey games.

KW: Did you go to football games?

AN: Oh, did I go to the football games! l went to every one, football tickets were included with registration. We filled out a railroad ticket (as it was called) each semester for registration. They ripped it up on multiple perforations and it was sent to different university departments, including the athletic department. We had, at that time, a plastic-coated student ID card that was punched every time we paid our tuition each semester. We would get together a group of sorority sisters, pool our ID cards, and all get football tickets together. Stadium seating was based on class, freshmen in the end zone, seniors nearer the fifty-yard line. I was a big football fan. Benny Oosterbaan was the coach, he took over after Fritz Crisler. Crisler coached until the end of the 1948 series, won the Rose Bowl and the National Championship. I also went to basketball games at Ferry Field House (now the hockey venue). They were free with a student ID card and they were happy to have a crowd. l also went to several hockey games that were played in the Coliseum on Hill Street. Hockey, with our student ID, cost thirty-five cents and we'd sit really close to the glass with our noses right up to the glass and watch the skaters whiz by. l dated one of the hockey players, at least we played bridge together. This was a few years before Red Berenson played here. I don't remember ever going to any of the baseball games although l knew that the baseball coach was named Ray Fisher, now the name of the baseball stadium. By the way, Ron Kramer was a great football player in the class of '55, which I consider my class. His number was 57, now retired.

Listen to Anne tell her story about how she became the first woman to receive the General Motors Scholarship as well as describe several other honors she earned.

KW: Well, one question I have here is did you accomplish any firsts for women at the University? And l thought l saw on your survey, you said you were the first woman to get the General Motors Scholarship?

AN: I believe so, yes. That was for my master's degree and the Head of the Engineering Mechanics Department, Professor Dodge, recommended me. In my senior year on the Honors Convocation Committee, you get a big picture and a write-up in the Michigan Daily (terrible picture, terrible write-up, terrible article). I knew I was going for a master's. (Actually, I thought I was going for my Ph.D., which I never did get. I married a fellow with a D.D.S., M.D. and that was as close as l got.) In the article I questioned whether I was going to Berkeley or perhaps Brown, both schools excellent for engineering mechanics. Professor Dodge called me into his office, we were pretty good friends, and said, "I read that article, would you be interested in staying here at Michigan?" I answered, "Well, of course that's always a consideration." He said, "Would it make a difference if I said I recommended you for the GM scholarship?" I would say that would make a big difference." He said, "It's $1200 unless, of course, you're married and then it's $1800". I said, "Well, we'll forget that." He said, "It's $120 a month for ten months but you can't work." I said, "You mean I can't do all that grading?" He said, "No, it'd just be leisure." I said, "I'll take it!" I found out later that I guess it was a first. I was the first woman engineer as a member of the Honors Convocation Committee because that had been started around my sophmore year.

KW: Right, and you said they usually took the women from...

AN: They take the representatives, at that time, from the two largest colleges and obviously the woman is from lit. school and the fella is from engineering. I don't know why they don't take somebody from another place but maybe they do now.

Listen to Anne describe how her male professors treated her.

KW: You talked a little bit about professors. Would you say professors were pretty supportive then of having a woman in their classes?

AN: Yes.

KW: Did you ever have any instances where a professor or even maybe a student was, like, "why are you here?" or tried to dissuade you at all while you were here?

AN: Only from a distance. My freshman year we had to take mechanical drawing with classrooms on the fourth floor of West Engin. My first semester I remember sitting there doing my drawings, blueprints, whatever. My professor, Mr, Eichelberger (a nice fellow) was talking with this quite attractive, very tall upperclassman at the door. Occasionally, they both would look around at me and I wondered what was going on. Mr. Eichelberger later came back to my drawing station said, "So, you know we were talking about you. Well, he's a sophomore and rather negative toward women in engineering. He wants to know how long you're going to last. I informed him that you were okay and would be here a long time." I later had a few dates with that student when l was a sophomore.

KW: Oh really?

AN: Yes, he was from Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Listen to Anne discuss the differences between technology in her era, such as the slide rule and typewriter, and technology today.

AN: It's important to remember that there were no personal computers in the '50's and no small calculators. There were five digital computers in the country then including MIDAC (Michigan Digital Automatic Computer), taking up half a hanger at Willow Run. I learned to program for it, but it wasn't very satisfactory. Here's a little history on home computers. I started off with a Mac II Plus with two disc drives. It had 48K memory that was the largest memory at that time. After two months l bought a 16K RAM card, raising my memory to 64K, wow! All of the word processing was done with embedded commands. Next came a 1,000K Mac (with a built in hard drive), a Mac Classic, an iMac, and now my G4. I worked for a while in 9.2, but updated to 10.2.8 (the highest the G4 will go) and I'm satisfied with a DSL. But, 48K are unbelievable. In the 1950's we worked with slide rules. No calculators. Slide rules don't add or subtract, but they multiply, divide, show logarithms, square roots, squares, cube roots, etc. All engineering students carried a slide rule!

KW: That is impressive.

AN; A slide rule is like a badge of honor. I'd have mine bronzed, but then I couldn't use it as a slide rule.

KW: Engineers today must seem pretty spoiled, huh, with their...

AN: I would think so. I think of all the time I spend on my computer today and think how much it would have helped doing homework, even for English or History majors. I have an old typewriter, an Elite Royal that my father used when he was on the Banking Department back in 1928-30. My brother brought it to Ann Arbor in 1938 and put a Michigan sticker on it. He used it throughout school and earned his degree. Then my sister took it with her to college, as did I. I typed up all my reports, the minutes for the Engineering Honor Council when I was secretary, and several admission forms for foreign universities. Not correctable, not erasable, just a relic credited with earning four degrees from the University of Michigan.

KW: Wow, that is impressive.

AN: And so I have it today with the original old Michigan sticker on it.

KW: Oh, that's really cool.

AN: Where were we?

Career and Family Life

Listen to Anne describe her first job at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey.

KW: I think I’ll ask you just a couple of questions about your professional career if that's all right. What was your first job out of college?

AN: I wasn’t really out. The summer of 1956, I was between semesters for my master’s. I had a teacher, Joe Shea, who received his Ph.D. at Michigan who was working for Bell Telephone Laboratories in Whippany, New Jersey. He arranged for me to work at the Laboratories that summer. He headed a small group of engineers who were the “go to last resort" group of problem solvers. So, I went out to New Jersey and, believe it or not, we were working on the initial designs under an Air Force contract to put a man on the moon. (Remember there were no computers.) There were seven engineers in our office and each had expertise in different fields. It was very interesting and diverse work, although one week I was saddled with a natural frequency vibration problem (not my favorite). "How did I get this?" I asked and the obvious answer was because I had the most vibration analysis training. Thanks to a Danish professor, Holger M. Hansen. I graded for him for several years. Dr. Hansen shared his large office with me, his vast library of books and even supplied me with my very own large desk. When I first reported for work, Dr. Hansen gave me a key and he said, "This is your desk. Use the calculator, use any books, whatever. This is your office." As a consequence, I did take all of his vibration courses because he needed a grader. Because engineering mechanics was mostly a master’s and Ph.D. degree field, an undergraduate was rare. When I was a junior, I was grading a class in EM124 with Ph.D. students and the same with several of Dr. Hansen’s classes. The other students never knew it and I never told anybody.

Listen to Anne discuss the impact her gender had on her career.

KW: Well, I guess in your career overall did being a woman ever, you know, did you ever feel like you were discriminated against in your career just in general as a woman or did you feel like you were just accepted just as anyone else would be? Like did sex really play a role at all in your career?

AN: No. Only once in a minor way at Marquette University. If a woman was going to be an engineer, earn honors and do well, that was a help. In those days people were anxious to hire women engineers proving they were mature, branching out, and doing a good thing. And also I think you'll find that women who graduated in the early years had to be good students or else they didn’t succeed in graduating.

LW: Yeah. That's neat, I never really thought about that but...

AN: I know you’re in employment that...I intended to go back to Bell Labs after I finished my master’s. When I left there that summer, Joe Shea, my friend and boss said, “Well, I guess it can be known now that the space program has just bought a launching pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida.” I also was applying for a scholarship to Cambridge in England to work on a Ph.D. However, that last semester, I met my husband-to-be and he wouldn’t wait. He had both a D.D.S. and M.D. and was finishing his residency in plastic surgery. He'd served in Korea, he was 38 years old, and wouldn’t wait, so we got married. He insisted on moving to Milwaukee, being a native of Wisconsin, and I did teach at Marquette University for a few years. That was where you might say that I had a little trouble being a woman. I taught sometimes at night school and sometimes during the day. I remember walking into a sophomore daytime class, put my textbook on the desk and turned around to write my name on the board, the number of the class, and so on and so forth. As I turned toward the class when I finished on the board, most of the students were picking up their books and starting to get out of their seats. I said, “Wait a minute, I‘m your professor." I believe they thought I was a secretary. They thought I was just writing things down and was about to announce “Sorry your professor isn‘t here." Instead, I said "Hold it. I’m it!”

KW: Were there some stunned looks on their faces?

AN: They didn’t know. It was my first semester and they didn't know. After a while I think they kind of liked me. I do believe that I was the first female engineering teacher at Marquette. I taught there until the family increased, three girls eventually. Then, I learned a lot of medicine and I didn’t even have to go to med school.

Listen to Anne talk about how she became the abstract editor for the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

LW: So, I was asking, did you kind of start getting into medicine from your husband?

AN: Yes. I started out doing a lot of secretarial work and work around the office. I used to write his reports to attorneys and other duties on a medical case. I threatened at one time to go to medical school, but this was not at all a popular idea with my husband who insisted I was too old! Later, he accepted an appointment as the abstract editor for the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, a well known respected publication and he said “You may put my name on the masthead, but my wife will do it." I did do it under his name. After he died, several other plastic surgeons were named as editors, but I did the work. It wasn’t until I moved to Florida and I kept getting mail addressed to other doctors that I insisted the journal put my name on the masthead. I don’t know what took me so long! They apparently thought a plastic surgeon should be listed. I remained the abstract editor for a total of 23 years and just resigned about 5 years ago. So that was a double interest. Besides that I taught my family a lot of engineering.

Anne Natvig in the Strength of Materials Laboratory, 1954-55

Anne Natvig in the Strength of Materials Laboratory, 1954-552

Listen to Anne tell her story about being called on to weld as a demonstration for her foundry lab classmates.

KW: You know, I was going to say, you said you have one daughter who is an engineer?

AN: She's an engineer basically in computer science educated at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee campus. I don’t think she had the overall engineering training I did. I believe it was strictly math and computer science for her. At Michigan, you may have a major, but you’ll have a good basis for everything, electrical, mechanical, chemical metallurgy, civil, and so forth. As a sophomore, I took a 5-hour chemical metallurgy course (supposedly a tough course) and with this was a 3-hour laboratory in the foundry on Wednesdays between 3:30 and 6:30 PM. (I should digress and explain that back in the '50s women didn’t wear jeans or slacks. I always wore a skirt, believe it or not, and we wore socks (straight up), saddle shoes, or loafers, as in my laboratory picture.

LW: Oh yeah.

AN: The anklets were always straight up, you know, that was cool.

LW: Oh yeah.

AN: That was cool! But I always wore a skirt to class and to most of my labs. However, the Wednesday foundry lab was dirty and filthy, you had to wear blue jeans and an old sweatshirt or a dirty old shirt. And it was three hours 3:30 to 6:30 on Wednesday, complicated by a little bit of difficulty because our guest night in the sorority was Wednesday where we had linen table cloths, had to wear dresses or skirts, and good things. Slacks were not allowed, one had to be dressed for guests. So, here I am in this lab until 6:30, riding my bike home. The cook always saved dinner for me and filthy, dirty, (no time to shower or anything) I would sneak into the kitchen, grab my dinner plate and quickly try to get lost in a hallway alcove. One particular Wednesday, we made steel, quenched the samples in oil or water and studied martensite and other components. I said it was a foundry lab. Another Wednesday, the TA announced, “Today we weld.” I thought, “Oh great, great! We'll gas weld, acetylene weld first.” So, we each had our little benches, lit our acetylene torches and welded, everything was pretty easy. The TA approved of our progress and halfway through the lab he announced, “Okay, now we graduate to arc welding." I know arc welding has probably changed a great deal, but in those days you had to put on goggles and then put on an apparatus that literally came down to here (almost to the waist). And then you looked through a glass opening, the dark glass through which it is safe to view an eclipse. It was a lot of junk (equipment). So, we arc welded, each in a little curtained booth because you are not supposed to look at the arc without eye protection. Occasionally, the TA would open the curtain and look in to see what each student was doing. Arc welding was new to me. I never expected ever to do it and, actually, I had never done acetylene welding either. Toward the end of the lab the TA announced, “We will have a little demonstration. Usually, I do the demonstration but I think you will learn more if one of you students does it." Now, a light bulb goes on in my head. You know why, you know why. I certainly knew why. We did have a student in our class who had welded (acetylene) during a summer job. Still we voted for this student to do it because he was experienced. With a big smile however, the TA smiled broadly and said, “No...”

KW: He picked you.

AN: “I think Miss Campbell should do the honors." Yes, I was used to this by now. It was like brushing your teeth; you know it's you automatically. When you practice arc welding, you get a little piece of metal, a little larger than a hockey puck and thinner than a hockey puck, and the student practices puddling. (I wish I’d saved some of my hockey puck puddling samples, besides making greet paperweights, they would lead to interesting conversation.) When I got all my equipment on he said, “Okay our first demonstration is using a rod without flux." The flux helps the rod from sticking and it is very difficult when done without it. So, I puddle, making these little puddles across the metal. “Now to show the difference, she’ll use the rod with the flux," and so on and so forth. Then too short an arc, which is also difficult because it wants to stick. Then too long an arc and then just a proper arc. “Okay now put down a perfect puddle." I finished about half an hour or forty-five minutes later, filthy and sweaty in my little booth. He took my little hockey puck and showed it to the rest of the class explaining each demonstrated puddle. He did admit they were good samples, sort of, but he never said a word to me until I got rid of my bulky equipment and went over to the sink to wash up. Then, with not another student in sight, he got real close to me, legally, and he said, “You can weld for me any time, Anne."

KW: Oh wow. That’s cool

AN: He never let any other student hear what he said, but it was his apology and congratulations for a good job.

KW: Did you feel like he picked you as sort of to prove yourself?

AN: Sure, of course he did. That happened all the time.

LW: Yeah, and so when class is in session, he wasn’t like “good job you can weld with me”, he was like “that was okay, it was a good example”?

AN: Well, no, he didn’t say anything bad. It was a good example and he showed it as a good example, but he didn’t say out loud to everybody “You can weld for me any time". But it was the highest compliment I could get.

LW: Yeah. That’s really great.

AN: That's what I mean about proving yourself. I knew you did. I didn’t take exception to the rule. I wasn’t offended at all.


Listen to Anne’s advice for young women engineers including her story about her late initiation into ΤΒΠ in 2006.

KW: Well, just to kind of wrap up, well, I mean, would you have any advice for women, you know, a girl, a woman being interested in doing engineering today?

AN: Go for it!

KW: Get out and do it, you know.

AN: Do it. It‘s a lot easier. I told you earlier that I’ve waited to get final initiation into ΤΒΠ. I was Women’s Badge #169, which meant there were one-hundred and sixty-eight women in the country that had been tapped for the Women’s Badge number. It wasn't until 1969 that they had reached over 600 woman’s badges, a total of 680, and they finally decided they’d better change their by-laws and initiate women. I received a letter from the Michigan Chapter saying that I could now be initiated into membership and because I moved to the Florida Keys and the closest university was Miami. I wasn’t going to be initiated anywhere but Michigan. I moved back here actually in '89- '90 and I should have made arrangements for initiation then when I was still younger, playing tennis and very active. I put it off until I finally I did it in December 2006. Feeling very decrepit and very old. I even wore my 50-year Emeritus pin.

KW: Oh that’s cool.

AN: It was funny because there were several women, perhaps a third (I don't know, I’m a bad guesser), but lots of women were initiated. I know when I said a few words at the banquet, I’d never seen so many women engineers in years. Now a few might have been wives of graduate students, but I'd never seen that many women engineers and that was really weird for me.

KW: Right. Yeah. I would imagine. Was it a good feeling though to be like, you know, look at where we’ve come?

AN: I think probably in my day obviously we stood out like a sore thumb and I was accustomed to being recognized, mine was the only girl’s bike parked at West Engin. and so on and so forth. When you walked down the hall, everybody knew who you were. And maybe that added to my...I was pretty proud. Best of all I liked when you proved yourself and best of all I liked the respect and camaraderie of my professors when they accepted me and recommended me for different things, that was wonderful. Really to do well, I think if any student comes in here and does well and is recognized, it's a boost to the ego, but it was especially gratifying to be recognized because I was a success in a field that was all men.

KW: Yeah. So, it might be almost like, you know, for women engineers today it could be a little bit harder, you know, kind of proving yourself in a different way...

AN: It might be more difficult to get recognition. I don’t have any doubts that I was appointed to the University Calendar Committee because I was a woman engineer. Obviously. I was appointed to the Honors Convocation Committee because I was a women engineer. They could just as easily have picked out some engineering fellow and continued that tradition, but "this year we can pick a woman from engineering" would be unusual. So, I have no doubt about that and I thoroughly enjoyed the special recognition!

KW: Yeah. Definitely. Very interesting.

AN: But it’s hard work.

KW: Yeah.

AN: I think it's hard work because if you do go into it, a fellow in a man‘s field can do pretty well even with mediocrity, but in the '50s, a woman in a man’s field had to be exceptional.

KW: No, I know what you’re saying. You have to kind of take the extra step if you’re a woman.

AN: He can go out and have serious hiring, employment, etc. A woman, some of them, well, I credit Bell Laboratories. I think they took me because I was a woman. Even though I was there just in the summer, they made me a member of the technical staff, only the second woman with that title and as a temporary employee, that was something. If you did well, you got more recognition because you wore a skirt.

KW: Yeah.

AN: I would not do anything differently.

KW: That’s perfect. That was like the next question I was going to ask you.

AN: Except I can’t say I don't have any regrets. I do wish I had gone to Cambridge, England and earned a Ph.D. but then I wouldn’t have my kids.

KW: Yeah.

AN: And I wouldn’t have all the knowledge of medicine. So, you can’t do everything, but I tried!

KW: Yeah. It sounds like you, you know, did.

AN: I think if I had any advice for kids in whatever field you’re in while you’re younger do the best you can, don't accept mediocrity. I mean try to do the best you can handle. Try to memorize anything you can when you are young. When I was a kid I grew up with music and I could quickly memorize any piano piece. (I recently sent my grand piano to my oldest daughter, a musicologist.) I could sit down and play the first several lines of something I memorized when I was 14 or 15. I also studied languages; four years of Latin in high school and one semester of reading French when I was at Michigan because I knew I needed French or German for a Ph.D. And always interested in languages, when I was in my forties, I decided that I was going to be proficient in Spanish and Italian. I lived a couple of miles from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and started auditing classes. I actually audited three years of Spanish, a year of Italian, and then I picked up some German. When you’re in your forties and you try to remember something it lasts (snaps fingers) about that long, but I could sit down and play stuff I memorized when I was 14. I made it a point to memorize my vocabulary and I also made a point to memorize a Bach fugue on the piano. All was fine if I played it everyday, then every two weeks, and then every month. Then I lost it, I don’t even know what key it’s written in now. I don't remember much vocabulary, but I have some Spanish-speaking girls that come and clean, so I still keep up a little bit. Right after I finished studying three years of Spanish, I spent a month in South America. I never spoke English except to my husband. I spoke nothing but Spanish.

KW: At the very beginning of our conversation your parents really urged you to do your best in whatever you do and it's interesting because you ended with saying, you know, I believe that kids today should the best with whatever they do.

1. Barbour Gymnasium, BL001975, University of Michigan Photographs Vertical File, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

2. Strength of Materials Laboratory, 1954-55; from the personal collection of Anne Natvig