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Newest Auburn history book highlights women in engineering

By Bethany Deuel

Published: Oct 20, 2022 9:00:00 AM

Across Three Centuries The history of women and women in Engineering at Auburn University "Across Three Centuries" cover

Art Slotkin, ’68 aerospace engineering, has written 11 books, nine of which detail aspects of Auburn University’s history. His newest book, “Across Three Centuries”, profiles the history of women—specifically those in engineering—at Auburn.

Commissioned by the group 100+ Women Strong — the force to recruit, retain and reward women in engineering at Auburn — Slotkin began gathering information from the Auburn archives and conducting interviews. His philosophy, he said, is to look for things he didn’t know.

“You have to find those nuggets of information in massive files. It takes a lot of research and a lot of reading,” Slotkin said.  

Many of these nuggets included stories on the obstacles faced by the first women in engineering at Auburn. A few of these early students found creative ways to take engineering laboratory classes that required wearing pants, despite rule that female students wear skirts, and one honor student who was praised by a professor for how wonderful an “engineer’s secretary” she would make.

Slotkin, who has two daughters, said stories like these are what motivated him to highlight the journey of women in Auburn Engineering.

These women persevered, despite resistance from a small number of faculty. In 1923, Maria Whitson became the first female to graduate with an Auburn Engineering degree — a monumental occasion the college will celebrate in 2023. Whitson went on to be the first female employee of Alabama Power that same year.

Slotkin follows the journey of females at Auburn through periods including the Great Depression and World War II. The book is filled with highlights on women from those early years to some who are still alive and active at Auburn today. Slotkin shows how these involved, accomplished women paved the way for the future of females at Auburn.

 “A woman who reads the book and is studying engineering hopefully will realize what it took for her to become accepted as someone who can study engineering,” he said. “I would hope they can see what preceded them.”

“Across Three Centuries” is available for all active 100+ Women Strong Members. If you are interested in becoming a member to support females in engineering at Auburn, please contact Teresa Carden at teresacarden@auburn.edu.

Media Contact: Bethany Deuel, 334.844.5519,

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