Today in NC State History: WW II leads to more female students

April 24, 2012
By Bill Krueger

PrintIt’s well known that World War II dramatically altered life at NC State, as students left school to join the military.

One of the biggest changes on campus was an influx of female students, whose numbers had been sparse up to that point. But on this day in 1942, there were urgent appeals made to young women to enroll at NC State.

“In an effort to obtain employment in traditionally male-dominated professions now facing labor shortages because of the war, women enrolled at State in ever-increasing numbers after 1942,” Alice Elizabeth Reagan wrote in North Carolina State University: A Narrative History.

Instructor Peele Johnson works with two students studying engineering in 1942 as Pratt-Whitney Fellows.

Instructor Peele Johnson works with two students studying engineering in 1942 as Pratt-Whitney Fellows. (Photo courtesy of Historical State.)

Young women were particularly encouraged to study engineering, and NC State eventually became the only university in the south to offer Pratt-Whitney Fellowships to women to help them study engineering, according to Reagan’s book.

The 48-week course enabled the women to be hired as engineering aides at the company’s plant in Connecticut.

Once the war was over, though, the number of women at NC State dropped. It was not until the late 1950s that the number of female students at NC State began to rise again.

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