Look what I found in the twenty-five cent bin of the comic book store -- my childhood! Specifically, two General Electric comic books, Science in Your Future and Our Place in Space. They were benign works of corporate propaganda published in the early 1950s and typical of the goodies which my father, who was an electrical engineer for GE, brought home from work. They were part of what made me a science-mad and space-mad kid. And they both, interestingly enough, came out of the Schenectady plant, where Dad was employed.
Read today, they're intelligent, well-made works (the cartoonist and writer -- almost certainly not Kurt Vonnegut who would have left GE's employment by then -- were uncredited), which do display certain cultural biases. The comic on space, for example, featured not one woman. Apparently we were going to conquer the universe without their active participation. The science comic did feature a young lady and included a few lines about "men and women scientists." But in all the vast lab spaces pictured (and they really were vast! I saw them on the yearly open house for employees' families), there was only woman. And she was so fashionably dressed that it was possible she was meant to be a secretary.
But GE's not to blame for that. It was the times. Women knew then that, with rare exceptions, if they wanted a career, they could choose between teaching and nursing. General Electric was actually being surprisingly open-minded in encouraging girls to think about becoming scientists.
Things got better, later. Not perfect by any means. But better.
And as always . . .
I'll be on the road tomorrow. I'm taking the train to Ontario for SFContario. I was a goh there last year and it was great. This year Gardner Dozois is the editor guest of honor and SFContario is the Canadian national convention, so it'll be even greater.
If you see me, be sure to say hello. Or bonjour, as the case may be.