Betty B. Hoskins

First woman professor at WPI

I came to Worcester in 1973. [Imitating people’s reactions] ‘You’re coming to WPI? It’s a boy’s-- men’s school.’ But utterly welcoming …It was a curious experience and let me just preface, each college did their own way of going co-educational or integrating. Holy Cross had hired a dean of women and started planning before they brought students…. But WPI had had some applications from women, and my guess is they said, ‘Well, you know, no reason to turn them down, they’re good,’ and then they said ‘Oh my goodness, we need women’s facilities.’ Originally, I was in a lab building which had no women’s room so they had to designate one of the men’s rooms. And there were grumbles like, ‘Oh, you know the secretaries didn’t mind going to the next building, even in winter.’ Yeah, they’d put their coats on and walk through the snow to go to the bathroom. I said ‘What’s it coming to?’ That’s funny, in a way, but it’s also, it meant that I got called ‘the one who’s not smart enough to stay in her own department.’ Because I’m in the Women’s Movement …

Born in 1936 in Baltimore, Maryland, Betty B. Hoskins grew up with her parents, John and Bessie Miller, and a younger brother and younger sister. Betty attended Goucher College, an all-women’s school at the time, graduating at 19 years old with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Shortly after, she obtained a master’s degree in embryology at 21 years old from Amherst College. She eventually married and moved to Texas with her husband, Godfrey Curtis, earning her doctorate from Texas Women’s University. She came to Worcester in 1972 when she heard that Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was searching for a professor, and has lived here since. In this interview, Betty discusses her experiences as one of the few women who studied and taught at men’s colleges, and the changes and strides she has seen women make in Worcester. Betty emphasizes how important women’s achievements in education are, and reminisces about many of her colleagues and friends who fought for women’s rights. The stories of Worcester’s many changes, her involvement with the Worcester Women’s History Project, as well as her personal educational achievements come alive in this interview, and demonstrate the effects of the women’s movement.

Interview
Interview Date: 
November 13, 2008
Interview Focus: