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Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / Wisconsin women, graduate school, and the professions

Barnes, Bette; Dickie, Ruth
Chapter 2: Women in science: sketches of Sigma Delta Epsilon members,   pp. 13-20

Page 14

"Because my life changed with my marriage in 1923, and my active
scientific research ended with the coming of my children in the late 1920s,
did not participate as freely as before in the activities of Sigma Delta
although jealously guarding my membership. I remember being fearful lest
tive membership would be denied me because I was no longer involved in
scientific research.
"In the early years we were very conscientious about following our origi-
nal plan of learning what all the women were doing in their various fields
science. Thus our meeting programs were usually presented by members.
"I believe we started early to have a social gathering at the second
autumn meeting to which all women in graduate work in science were invited,
so that we could get acquainted early with possible new members. The pro-
cess of examining the credentials of candidates for membership and obtaining
recommendations from major professors or department chairmen and then
voting took some time, and initiation came in the first semester. These parties
were sometimes held in the parlors of Lathrop Hall, as this was before the
Union was built. Before Christmas there was a party held at the home of a
member, Mrs. L. R. Jones. This became a tradition until she left Madison.
During the university summer session there was a picnic and I remember
some of these were held at the lakeside summer cottage of Dr. Selma
"Gradually we worked into the national organization and our chapter
represented early in the national presidency and other offices, and at conven-
tions. The early national conventions were always held in conjunction with
the meetings of the AAAS which came once a year."
There have always been sexist remarks made about the organization,
beginning with its formation when Edith Seymour Jones remembers that two
members of the botany department, Drs. Overton and E. J. Kraus, called SDE
"Hen Gamma Alpha" and "Sisters Delving Earnestly," respectively.
Sigma Delta Epsilon was the first women's organization accepted as an
affiliate by AAAS in 1936, then as an associate in 1938. There are seventeen
active chapters of SDE presently, including Omega, the alumnae chapter for
persons living in areas where there is no chapter.
Beta Chapter is the only chapter to have remained fully active throughout
its history. Another characteristic of Beta has been that women from many
countries of the world have been active members at one time or another and
often maintain membership in Omega Chapter upon returning to their native
countries. One of the first was Dr. Mathilde Bensaude (1890-1969) who was
initiated into Beta Chapter on December 5, 1922. She was born in Lisbon of
Portuguese and French parents and received a Ph.D. at the Sorbonne. In
1927 she returned to Lisbon and spent the rest of her life helping the
agricultural economy of Portugal and the Azores by studying plant diseases
and plant pathology.
There are presently one hundred active members, representing forty de-
partments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, American Scientific
Laboratories, the Department of Natural Resources, Edgewood College,
Forest Products Laboratory, State Laboratory of Hygiene, and Madison
General and the Veterans Administration Hospitals. Often the newest mem-
bers leave the university campus and Madison after receiving M.S. or Ph.D.
degrees, so the success of Beta Chapter always has depended on a core of
women who continue to live in Madison and maintain active membership.

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