“Will electronics replace the housewife?” was the title of a 1958 tongue-in-cheek promotional piece for household appliances printed in Texins, Texas Instruments employees’ magazine. In addition to being a leader in oil exploration and the defense industry, the company’s advancements in infrared optics, transistor and vacuum technologies were positioning it as a contender in the larger consumer products market. Touting the benefits of employing ultrasonic research and solar energy in the design of vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, and dishwashers, the piece predicted jokingly that “when all of these innovations become available, the housewife of the future will probably have to equip herself with a degree in physics or electrical engineering if she is going to remain useful as well as ornamental.” Nowadays, this choice of words would be seen as a poor attempt at humor, if not downright offensive. But at the time the article was merely banking on the proverbial stereotype surrounding the woman of the 1950s, whose main role as a housewife made her the perfect target for consumer advertising.

Defeating the stereotype? The many women employed by Texas Instruments and its predecessor Geophysical Services Inc. (GSI), starting in the 1940s as manufacturing laborers, switchboard operators, and office clerks. In 1952, the personnel roster of the GSI Dallas office listed twenty-two women among the 59 employees.  By May 1961, after Texas Instruments had expanded and opened several national and international divisions, the company’s personnel census listed 17,604 employees, 7,517 of them women; 102 served in salaried, managerial positions (compared with over 3,700 of the men), although the large majority were hourly workers.

Manufacturing division in the TI Semiconductor building, Dallas, 1958

Assembly line technicians, quality assurance specialists, typists and stenographers, office clerks, receptionists, librarians, administrative assistants, engineers, accountants, team supervisors, technical writers, and many other roles have made women an indispensable part of the workforce in a male dominated industry. Women possess the skills such as high precision, finesse, and attention to detail acquired through specialized training. Many have earned college and advanced degrees, although applying their education to their positions proved challenging in the earlier years.

 

Nelle Johnston receiving company seal from Patrick Haggerty

Nelle Johnston receiving company seal from Patrick Haggerty

Nelle Johnston graduated in 1942 with a B.A. in library science from Texas State College for Women (now Texas Woman’s University) and had briefly worked as a librarian before changing directions to the oil industry. She joined GSI as a stenographer in 1947, but she was soon assigned administrative duties as secretary to then manufacturing division manager Patrick Haggerty and controller Carl Thomsen. Johnston also kept records of the company’s military proposals, contracts and purchase orders of geophysical equipment. When GSI was reorganized as Texas Instruments Inc. in 1951, Johnston became secretarial assistant to co-founders and board leaders J. Erik Jonsson, Patrick Haggerty, and Eugene McDermott. She aided in the creation of the employee organizations Texins Association and Texins Credit Union, and also authored the first editions of TI and You, the company’s welcome brochure for new employees. In 1956 Johnston became involved with the Pilot Club of Dallas, which operated the Pilot Institute for the Deaf, and was named chair of the board in 1958. She was instrumental in the formation of the Callier Hearing and Speech Center in 1962, and in 1978 was the first recipient of the award established in her name by the center.

Patricia Brown in the TI Semiconductor library.

Patricia Brown earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette) in 1947, as the school’s first woman engineering graduate. She continued her studies at the University of Texas, obtaining a M.A. in Chemistry with a minor in Chemical Engineering in 1949.  Brown specialized in technical writing and information science organization. She worked for several industrial and research laboratories before she became the Supervisor of Information Services at Texas Instruments in Dallas 1957, where she oversaw the opening of the research library in the new Semiconductor building. A feature in the fall 1961 issue of the company’s Texins magazine detailed that Brown’s role was to “provide information before TI engineers are aware they need it,” but also cited her “concern over America’s failure to seek out and utilize female engineering talent.” An advocate for cultivating the advancement of women in the engineering and science fields, Brown joined the Society of Women Engineers in 1951 and helped establish local sections in Detroit and Columbus, Ohio. She was elected the organization’s president in 1961, and was named a fellow in 1990.

 

When Gloria Moreno Verbeek started her engineering career as a process engineer at Texas Instruments in 1971, shortly after graduating with honors from North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) with a B.S. in chemistry, she was the first woman engineer in the wafer fabrication department, and one of the company’s only six women engineers at the time. During her thirty-year tenure at Texas Instruments, Verbeek earned a master’s in management and administrative science from UT Dallas and in 1995 became TI’s worldwide manager for supply quality, overseeing the company’s supply training and supplier relations in the United States, Japan, Europe, and South-East Asia. By the time Verbeek retired in 2001, more and more women were holding professional and high executive positions, as the company had started to intentionally seek the hiring and development of female talent and advanced technical training.

Sources:

Texins for the employees of Texas Instruments Incorporated issues: April 1955, March 1957, September 1958, Fall, 1961

Texas Instruments Records, History Office Collection biographies. A2005.0025. 85-1, Box 9, Folder 27

Texas Instruments Records, Biography files.  A2005-0025. 2008-18, Box 4

Texas Instruments Records, Personnel census reports, 1951-1971. A2005.0025. 87-37

For more information about the Texas Instruments Records at the DeGolyer Library, contact Ada Negraru, anegraru@mail.smu.edu

AA-CUL(DeGolyer)