It is not an accident that American engineering is so disproportionately male and white; it took and takes work to create and sustain this situation. Engineering Manhood: Race and the Antebellum Virginia Military Institute examines the process by which engineers of the antebellum Virginia Military Institute cultivated whiteness, manhood, and other intersecting identities as essential to an engineering professional identity. VMI opened in 1839 to provide one of the earliest and most thorough engineering educations available in antebellum America. The officers of the school saw engineering work as intimately linked to being a particular type of person, one that excluded women or black men. This particular white manhood they crafted drew upon a growing middle-class culture. These precedents impacted engineering education broadly in this country and we continue to see their legacy today.
Figure 1.1. Virginia in 1829. County boundaries as they existed at the time of the 1829–1830 constitutional convention. Bold lines show the four constitutional divisions of Virginia. The Blue Ridge Mountains separate the Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley. The star indicates the location of Lexington in Rockbridge County. Note that what is today West Virginia was part of Virginia until 1861.
Figure 4.1. Cadet Descriptive Geometry Exercise. B. Cooke, January 28, 1857, “Tangent plane to a sphere through a given line,” Cadet Architectural Drawings, MS 203, Virginia Military Institute Archives. Copied from Davies, Descriptive Geometry, Plate 9, Fig. 2.
Figure 6.1. First-Class Merit Roll. “Semi-Annual Report of the Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, Together with Accompanying Documents,” Doc. No. 28, Journals of the House of Delegates, 1845, 11.
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