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Purdue Student Section of the Society of Women Engineers records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 182

Scope and Contents

The Purdue Student Section of the Society of Women Engineers records (4.2 cubic feet; 1945-2010) document the creation of a professional society for women engineering students at Purdue (Pi Omicron) and the subsequent transition to the student section of the Society of Women Engineers, a national organization.  The bulk of the papers document the activities and organization of the Purdue chapter of SWE, and its relationship with the national organization of SWE.  The participation of SWE in Purdue’s Grand Prix is also documented.  The collection is particularly strong in its documentation of the earliest years of both Pi Omicron and SWE (1940s-1950s) and the more recent era of the 1980s-2000s.  The 1960s-1970s are not well documented within the contents of the collection.  The bulk of the materials documenting the most recent years and the Grand Prix are in the form of scrapbooks.  This collection would be particularly useful to researchers interested in women in STEM professions, women’s professional organizations, Purdue’s Grand Prix, engineering at Purdue, and precursors to Title IX legislation.  Types of materials include papers, correspondence, photographs, programs, printed materials, scrapbooks, awards and slides.


  • 1945-2004
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1950-1990
  • Other: Date acquired: 11/06/2012


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All copyrights belong to Purdue University per deed of gift.

Historical Information

The Purdue student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers began as the Gamma chapter of Pi Omicron professional society for women in engineering in 1946.  Pi Omicron received support from Dr. Lillian Gilbreth, who was also involved in the founding of Pi Omicron chapters at Syracuse and Cornell.  Dr. Gilbreth noted the specific challenges faced by women in engineering and believed that a professional society geared toward fostering fellowship among women engineers and providing resources to them was a necessity.  Potential members of Pi Omicron were required to be enrolled in engineering, be of sophomore standing, have good grades, and maintain membership in her respective technical society. The decision to join the Society of Women Engineers came as a result of the desire of engineering faculty and women students to participate in a national professional society in an effort to provide more opportunities and guidance for women engineering students at Purdue.  The Purdue chapter became the first student section of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in 1954.  As a student chapter, they emphasize scholarship in addition to fellowship and professional development.  They have provided scholarships and awards over the years to members with outstanding records, the first of which was awarded in 1967 with assistance from the Mortar Board.  Since the advent of Title IX legislation, the Purdue chapter has also expanded to include male membership. The Purdue chapter has frequently been recognized by the national organization of SWE.  They have been honored as the best section in their region, the best student section in the nation, and for the involvement and leadership of individual members.   


4.20 Cubic Feet

6 boxes other_unmapped

3.00 mss._boxes

1.00 cubic_foot_boxes

2.00 cubic_foot_boxes

Language of Materials



This collection contains papers, photographs, programs, correspondence, and reports documenting the activities of Pi Omicron and its successor the Purdue Student Section of the Society of Women Engineers.  The records also document the difficulties that women in science have faced over the years.

Arrangement Note

1.  SWE Organizational Materials,1945-2010 (3.6 cubic feet). This series consists of various materials documenting SWE as an organization and their involvement in events and activities.  Types of materials include historical and organizational documents, awards, publications, photographs, and scrapbooks.  Also included is historical information about SWE’s precursor, Pi Omicron.  The series provides a good overview of the changing role of the Society of Women Engineers for engineering students at Purdue.  Materials in the series are arranged chronologically by topic a/or type.  2.  Grand Prix Materials, 1970-2009 (0.6 cubic feet).  This series is comprised mostly of pictures and scrapbooks documenting the involvement of SWE in Purdue’s Grand Prix.  Also included are some Grand Prix programs that illustrate the various activities associated with Grand Prix Week and their evolution over the years.  Materials in the series are arranged chronologically by topic a/or type.

Custodial History

The Purdue Society of Women Engineers records were separated from the Women in Engineering Program records.

Source of Acquisition

Elizabeth Holloway, Director, Women in Engineering Program

Method of Acquisition

Transfer from the Women in Engineering Program

Accruals and Additions

Five cubic foot boxes containing additional papers, plaques, and several scrapbooks were acquired October 10, 2015.

Processing Information

Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained (for most of the collection however, there was no discernible original order).  All materials have been placed in archival housing.  All newsprint has been photocopied and in most cases original newspaper clippings have been discarded.  Photo albums and scrapbooks disassembled for preservation purposes were first scanned to maintain a record of the original context.
Purdue Student Section of the Society of Women Engineers records
In Progress
Virginia Pleasant
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States