Women’s History at DePaul

Mary Boas teaching, DePaulian, 1967

Women’s achievements in American history can be celebrated while simultaneously highlighting the established gender roles of a particular era.  A newly-acquired book held in DePaul Special Collections and Archives showcases some of women’s groundbreaking successes. After the War: Women in Physics in the United States shares the stories of women who continued to work in the male-dominated physics field even after men returned stateside as veterans and reentered the workplace following World War II. The new book by Ruth H. Howes and Caroline Herzenberg celebrates important women in physics during this time and the various “strategies they used to survive as physicists.”


DePaulia, April 25, 1958
DePaulia, April 25, 1958











Former DePaul faculty member Dr. Mary Boas, one of the featured physicists in the book, was born in Washington state and received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Washington. Boas’ husband Ralph taught mathematics at numerous universities, including Harvard, MIT, and Northwestern. Mary received her PhD in physics from MIT in 1948. After the family moved to the Chicago area in the 1950s, Mary Boas took a teaching position at DePaul University in 1958.

Sigma Pi Sigma, Depaulian, 1973

During her career, Dr. Mary Boas balanced the responsibilities of teaching and raising a family as noted in the April 25, 1958, DePaulia. The above entry by “Powder Puff” reporters shows the achievements of pioneering women were still commonly presented in the context of society’s expected gender roles.  Nonetheless, in addition to teaching, Mary was active with the “newly-established DePaul chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma in 1973… a branch of the only national physics honor society in the U.S.” In the 1973 DePaulian group photo, Sigma Pi Sigma members including Boas are identified as “attempting to popularize physics on campus by sponsoring speakers, discussion groups, and informal get-togethers with faculty.” Mary Boas taught physics at DePaul until her retirement in 1987.

DePaul Special Collections and Archives assisted author Ruth Howes with her book project by providing a copy of the above photo of Mary Boas teaching. For more information about our collections or teaching with Special Collections and Archives materials, please contact us at archives@depaul.edu or stop by the John T. Richardson Library, Room 314.

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