History of Women at Nevada
Marjorie Carr was a geology student at the University of Nevada in the late 1940s.
“She was in this building,” said Natasha Majewski, a researcher for UNR Libraries, sitting in a tiny study room with a very high ceiling and wavy glass windows in the Mackay Mines Building, which dates back to 1908. In Carr’s time, the geology program wasn’t particularly inclusive to women. According to Majewski, Carr had to walk to the education building to use a restroom, as there weren’t any for women in the mines building. And, even though acquiring expertise in her field required on-site observation and training, Carr wasn’t allowed on field trips.
“She told me that her professor would bring her back rock samples,” said Majewski, who interviewed Carr in 2016. “It’s really fascinating. This lady, she’s learning a field that women are not really in, and also not getting to really learn the field—and she’s still sticking it out. Some of her stories were about men who would help her, and then men who would haze her, essentially.”
In an audio recording Majewski made of their interview, Carr says in a calm, measured voice, “It was a different life, and I accepted it because that’s the way it was. … I didn’t know that you might object, because in those days you did not object. … They’d say, ’Goodbye. If you don’t like it here, you can go elsewhere.’”
In 1951, Carr became the third woman ever to graduate from the Mackay School of Mines.
Her story is one of many that Majewski and a few other researchers fished out of UNR Libraries’ huge archive, “maybe 14,000 images,” Majewski estimated, and assembled into a “story map” called History of Women at Nevada. It’s a scrollable collection of photos, short audio recordings, interactive maps, and other resources available to the public, that tell the stories of women at UNR through the years.
The collection showcases many women of achievement and milestones to be proud of, but it does not gloss over injustices. There was Stella Mason, class of 1952, UNR’s first female African American student, who “had to have special arrangements made for her to finish her teacher training in a public school during a time when segregation was strictly enforced.”
Then there were women cast in roles that were downright infantilizing. In a photo from the 1920s of a ladies’ PE class, about a dozen grown women are shown wearing dresses that look like vintage Brownie Girl Scouts uniforms, engaged in a “sport” that looks a lot like “Ring Around the Rosie.”
Majewski, a trained geographer, said she used GIS (geographic information system) mapping “to add a level of interactive storytelling.” The entire collection reads something like a clickable, long-form magazine article. It’s concise and well organized enough so that readers can soak in some substantial stories in not much time. And each photo or other document links to its original source, which means that if you’re the type to jump into a research hole, there’s a network of pre-dug tunnels to wander in. (The 1914 yearbook alone is a half familiar/half foreign world unto itself, available to flip through on screen with no appointment and no white gloves.)
History of Women of Nevada is one of several collections that UNR researchers have made easily accessible. Others include maps, Basque history, and an online exhibit of Reno’s divorce history.