FACES OF WOMEN IN ENGINEERING:
PLAQUE FOR MARY FOOTE REEL & MURIEL THEODORSEN WILLIAMS
by Catherine Farmer
Marie Foote Reel enrolled in the Trinity Women’s College in 1943 hoping to become a teacher. However, one year later, she decided to transfer to the College of Engineering despite opposition from administrators, faculty, and her male student counterparts. She excelled, graduating in 1946 as magna cum laude in her class and becoming one of the first women to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering at Duke University.
Muriel Theodorsen Williams overcame similar obstacles as Reel had. After graduation, Williams celebrated the fact that the two of them had convinced “other people at Duke that women in engineering are not undesirable, inept intruders in a traditionally all-male field; but rather, that we are able co-workers who can carry our own weight and sometimes even excel in this field of untold importance to humanity.”
A simple plaque with a three-dimensional embossment of the faces of Reel and Williams should be installed on campus, in the Hudson Hall Engineering Plaza. The plaque would be bas-relief, which is similar to the plaque dedicated to Ian Hamilton in the Biddle Music Library on East Campus.
Underneath the faces and names of Reel and Williams can be a caption recognizing the women’s accomplishments, or a relevant quote that empowers its viewers, such as: “Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand besides us, fight with us,” by British suffragette Christabel Pankhurst.