Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Resolutions: I’m Gonna Be an Engineer

Bobbie McGhee: I‘m Gonna Be an Engineer


I don’t usually post quizzes here, but I have a few questions for our readers as we go along. Please respond in the comments. Thanks.

I had two introductions to folk music growing up. One was what I heard at the peace demonstrations I attended, starting at age eight. The other was a program that was broadcast on WQXR out of New York City when I was young. The show was called Woody’s Stepchildren, and I don’t remember the name of the host, so that’s question 1. Does anyone else remember the show? At any rate, that was where I first heard I’m Gonna Be an Engineer. I believe the song was written by Peggy Seeger, and hers was the version I heard. It was my introduction to feminism, before the term had even been coined. I never thought about what kind of engineer the singer was going to be. My father was an electrical engineer, so that must be it.

The version here is by Bobbie McGhee. Who was she? I have no idea, so that’s question 2. All I know is that I like her version better than Seeger’s. McGhee sounds more determined to me, perhaps because feminism had made some strides by the time McGhee recorded it. I can tell you that McGhee’s album came out on Collector Records in 1981, and was reissued by Smithsonian Folkways in 2006.

Years after I first heard this song, I dated a woman who was a mechanical engineer. That was the mid 1980s, and she was still paid less than her male colleagues. I hope things have continued to improve since then. If there are any female engineers among our readers, feel free to report. I hope there will come a day when we no longer have to talk about someone being a female anything; that is what true equality will mean.

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