Twenty-five years ago today, 14 young women engineers were killed at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. At the time, I was the mother of 2 small boys, the younger just about to turn 2. I am also a Professional Engineer, and the previous summer, I had celebrated the 10th anniversary of my graduation with my classmates.
This event affected me deeply. Much like these young women, I could never see any reason why I should not be an engineer. I didn't even realize that this was an unconventional career for a women, until I arrived at school, and discovered that in my class of 120, there was only one other woman. I didn't think I was any different from peers. I knew if I worked hard, I was entitled to my degree. It was not any easier to get into the program as a woman. There were no quotas. I knew that there were people who were not accepted into the program, but it was not because of their gender. It was because they didn't meet the standard. As a matter of fact, one of my acceptance letters started Dear Mr....
I was lucky. Although I was told, more than once, that I couldn't be an engineer, because I was a woman, no one ever tried to use violence to stop me.
Every year as this anniversary rolls around, I get angry at the slant that the press puts on this event. It is lumped together with domestic violence, as a symbol of men committing violence against women.
Twenty-five years ago, I saw this as an act of person committing violence against 14 other people because they had worked hard and become engineers, when he could not. They were engineers, and I am sure they were proud to be members of this profession. They believed that all people should be treated equally in schools and workplaces, and they died for those beliefs.
I can only hope that future history will remember them not just as women, but as engineers.
In Memory of:
Annie St. Arneault