Today in History – December 6, 1989 – Fourteen women, mostly engineering students, were killed by an anti-feminist gunman at the Ecole Polytechnique of Montreal. The university, located on the north slope of Mont Royal in Montreal, was the largest engineering school in Canada, with about 5,000 students enrolled at that time. The suicidal gunman was Marc Lepine. He stormed into a classroom and ordered the men to leave and then shot the remaining women in the room. He went on a rampage shooting more women, and some men, in the halls and other rooms before turning the gun on himself. One woman was savagely knifed as well as shot. The gunman had been unsuccessful in a computer programming course he had taken and was later rejected by the Ecole Polytechnique, blaming his failure on affirmative action that favored women for slots that were rightfully his. He left a suicide note in his pockets. Here is an excerpt that was posted in Katherine Ramsland’ article titled “Gendercide: The Montreal Massacre“:
“Because I decided to send Ad Patres [to the fathers] the feminists who have always ruined my life,” he wrote. “For seven years my life has brought me no joy, and being utterly weary of the world, I have decided to stop those shrews dead in their tracks… The feminists always have a talent for enraging me. They want to retain the advantages of being women…while trying to grab those of men… They are so opportunistic that they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men throughout the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can.”
Feminsits and domestic abuse centers highlighted this as an example of gendercide by men who are threatened by the accomplishments of women. Even those who do not kill, abuse women to control them.
Canada commemorates the Montreal Massacre as part of a the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, otherwise known as “December 6th. During this annual event, participants don white ribbons and honor the victims with fourteen white roses: Genevieve Bergeron, Helene Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganiere, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michelle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte and Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz.
It is with heavy heart that I write this blog; I decided to do so to remind us that not all men and women believe in equal opportunities for women. Although the National Academies recent study - Beyond Bias and Barriers – concluded that most discrimination of women in STEM disciplines is due to unconscious bias, let us not forget that explicit conscious bias gender discrimination still exists. Lepine’s father was of Algerian Muslim roots and had a history of domestic violence. He came from a tradition that had much different views of the roles of women. In today’s “Flat World” it is imperative to explicitly face these clashes of cultures and make them a part of our public education and ethics policy.
To counter this depressing story, I highlight below some of our blogs on women’s contributions to engineering, computer science and entrepreneurship.
Patricia Galloway, first female president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), blogs on Elsie Eaves – first female engineer in ASCE to be elected as a full member on March 14, 1927.
Lucy Sanders, CEO of the Center for Women in Information Technology blogs on the unveiling of the ENIAC on February 14, 1946, the world’s first digital electronic computer, as well as on the contributions of women in computing.
Jasmina Vujic, Chair of the Nuclear Engineering Department at the University of California at Berkeley, blogs on Lise Meitner and her groundbreaking publication that first introduced the world to nuclear fission on February 11, 1939.
Chad-Eric Montgommery blogs on two African American women. On March 1, 1864, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first African American woman to receive a medical degree. Also see the blog on Sara Breedlove Walker, the first self-made millionairess hair product inventions for African American women.
The October 18th blog on the discovery and structure of DNA comments on the pivot work of Rosalind Franklin’s in the development of the understanding the structure of DNA through X-ray crystallographies.
I enjoyed researching the blog for November 13, 1913 – Mary Phelps Jacobs invents modern bra. And also for the one on Dr. Mary Walker, the first female army surgeon to be awarded the Medal of Honor on November 11, 1875.
Check out the Engineering Pathway‘s many educational resources on women in engineering, women in information technology, women inventors and gender equity. One of my favorite resources is FairerScience, with practical advice on how to develop gender equitable classrooms and practices in math, science and engineering. Or visit our Engineering Diversity or our Broadening Participation in Computing community sites.
For a more indepth analysis of the issues associated with gender equity in our faculties and recommended solutions, read our “most commented” resource – the National Academies’ Beyond Bias and Barriers report. My editorial on the report was published in ASEE Prism, November 2006, vol. 16 (3). We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions as well.