It started simply enough. In 2013, I was sitting in a lonely office in a lonely wing of the engineering building on the University of Wisconsin campus. At the time, I was a science writer, on the hunt for a historical factoid about materials science to insert into a department newsletter.
I stumbled across the name of the first female graduate of the program: Emily Hahn. She received her degree in 1926, but the college’s website offered nothing more. I mentioned Hahn to my boss, who shrugged and said, “I don’t think she became an engineer.” I didn’t include her in the newsletter.
But I didn’t forget her, and eventually, I started to Google her. And it didn’t take long to realize that “Mickey” Hahn was way more interesting than we gave her credit for.
After a brief stint as a mining engineer, she became a writer and world traveler, ultimately producing more than 50 books. She traveled to the Belgian Congo alone in her mid-20s, and she spent eight years in Japan-occupied China during WWII.
I was … stunned. I’d majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin, and I’d never, not once, heard the name of this prolific alum. How was that possible?Read More »