Today’s post for Women’s History Month—in the voice of former National Archives employee Mabel Deutrich—comes from Alan Walker, archivist at the National Archives at College Park.
I went to the La Crosse State Teachers College in Wisconsin. It’s now the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse.
I came to the Archives in 1950, after having worked with the Army’s records since we entered World War II.
Here is a rundown of my first decade or so in government service. Competition for promotions in our unit was intense. Upon reading this document reviewing the candidates, I would remark that you should take care in what you commit to paper: “Deutrich’s only disadvantage in this respect lies in her being a woman.”
In spite of this assessment, I persevered; my knowledge of Army records and their organization proved immensely helpful as we were being inundated with them after the war.
Indeed I did pass! And I continued with my studies. It’s not often that you can get your Ph.D. examination board to convene at your workplace:
My dissertation was on “Fred C. Ainsworth: Army Surgeon and Administrator.” The Ainsworth Search Room of the Civil War Branch was named after him. Here is a view of the grand opening of that search room. Of course the photographer would catch me in mid-blink!
In 1960 I also became the Archivist in Charge for the Early Wars Branch of the War Records Division. I contributed to the production of several preliminary inventories, and in 1963 I shepherded PI-155 through from start to finish. Through the 1960s I directed archival projects for the Office of Military Archives, then I headed up the Old Military Records Division.
When functions were realigned in 1971, I was put in charge of all military records. In 1975, I capped things off when I was appointed as the assistant archivist for the Office of the National Archives.
I was constantly aware of my position as I moved along in my career; the ratio of women to men in the archival jobs here was always low. So I resolved to contribute to the betterment of our opportunities. I chaired the SAA’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Archival Profession when it was established in 1972. I wrote this article “Ms. vs. Mr. Archivist” for the “Women in Archives” issue of The American Archivist in 1973:
It was an exciting time, the mid-1970s; interest in women’s history was taking off. I directed our Conference on Women’s History in April 1976.
Though I retired from the Archives in 1979, there was still so much to occupy me. Virginia Purdy and I worked on this volume, and it was great fun.
My sister and I both had satisfying and successful careers in the government.
And there you have it!
To sum it up, I would say I am pleased with the way my career turned out. Even with my “disadvantage.”