Edith Lohr

Titel

Dipl.-Ing.

Date of birth and death

Born 2 November 1921 in Baden near Vienna
currently living in Lenzing, OÖ

 

Studies

Science – Chemistry
Department of Technical Chemistry

Interview date

October 23rd 2012

Already my Matura (high school leaving exam) in the war year of 1940 … after that, one year of State Teacher College with maturity certificate … after that, Reich labour service – followed by war labour service at Siemens in Vienna and Berlin – additionally I studied chemistry at the Vienna University of Technology – bombs – Russian occupation – cold – hunger - … and in front of the University in Resselpark: Vienna’s central black market …

At the University of Technology, part of the buildings were destroyed by bombs, there was debris everywhere, electricity and gas only for a few hours a day, no heating (wearing mittens to lectures …), the first “returnee” boys arrived at the “hallowed halls” in 1946.

But teaching was serious, students worked hard, we tried to help each other, there weren’t “men” and “women”, but only “colleagues”, friends, occasionally fiancés, nobody full, but everybody permanently hungry … everybody was “slim” … But everybody helped each other, you exchanged textbooks, tested one another before exams, you helped each other at the laboratory … and even with the “hard labour” former National Socialists had to “serve” in clearing the detritus from the University of Technology, returnee soldiers helped their weaker colleagues … Enjoyment and pleasure? Yes, when an experiment went well for a colleague, an exam was passed well … and consolation: When it had gone awry … and pleasure: sometimes an invitation to the cinema after a successful lab session …

Professors: There were few who had more than one suit – the same for summer and winter. With some, you were able to see that they were “better off”, those were the ones who had successfully gotten hold of a sideline with the authorities and some companies as a “public administrator” or “consultant” …

We were all “poor” – and didn’t even notice!
We were cheerful – and had little to nothing.
We had faith in the future – after the disaster and the war.
We believed in one another – and didn’t compete against each other.
We hardly had any amusement – how should we?
We always saw that we were better off than some colleague … who had to wear the same pullover for the whole of the winter because she didn’t have anything else.
But we studied, avidly soaked in what we had to learn and were deliriously happy with the stamp “Accepted!” in the booklet of analyses.
We had good contact to our professors, teachers, assistant professors – but also to technicians and administration officials: Everybody was “really nice” to us!

Competition: Well, yes, there was the occasional “colleague” who was a little more arrogant, made sheep’s eyes at us or treated us gruffly. But those types didn’t last long: We girl-women were rather feisty …

One more story:

In 1951, I was ready: I was already married (of course, my husband is also a chemical scientist from the University of Technology) – and was facing the main diploma examination – and pregnant. It was the same with a female colleague from my faculty. We went to see our dean, Dr. Strebinger, to “register for the Main Diploma Examination” … He looked at the candidates one after the other … stood in front of my colleague, shook his head, went on, came up to me, heaved a deep sigh and said in a clear voice: “Oh well, we would have to hire a midwife this time, too!” … and declined our registration.

My daughter Elisabeth nevertheless was born “well” and even became a chemistry-affine pharmacist – It simply cost my colleague and me one more year to get the diploma!

I have looked at all the links listed in this questionnaire and diligently related them to “my era”. I do “wonder” a lot about which “initiatives” seem to be necessary today in order to give female students and graduates of the Vienna University of Technology “equal rights” with “men”.

We women “then” neither had any “pioneering spirit” to work to be half of the students at any faculty, nor did we question the dominance of men in teaching. That mechanical or electrical engineering attracted much fewer women than, let’s say, chemistry, was absolutely logical to us (it surely had nothing to do with the concept of “woman back to the kitchen”, i.e. the lab).

And that teaching at the University of Technology was nearly exclusively done by men also was no relic of demonstrative male tactics.

We, the female students, carried our enthusiasm for chemistry into the lecture halls and labs, and contributed a lot to the fact that the inner openness, which girls and women are capable of, communicated itself to male students and teachers. We did not think primarily of future benefits, i.e. “high positions in research and economy” – we brought in enjoyment and enthusiasm for the knowledge and research potential of chemistry.

Therefore, there were hardly any conflicts between male and female students concerning grades, opinions, successful publications and recognition, but we women formed a self-contained pole of a kind of “love for chemistry”!

Aspects of the future? We never felt that the career after our diploma will bring us “wealth and happiness in this world”. We just wanted to “advance” chemistry by what we did and by our commitment, whether as researchers, teachers or well-known industrial chemist.

It nearly hurts when I feel the realisation – or is it just a feeling? – emerge that a materialist component starts to gain on the “love for chemistry”, in which the question of men and women is also styled as an argument of statistical results.

I am already 91 years old. This might be one argument in order to rate me as no longer “in”. But: I became a chemist at the Vienna University of Technology, after my chemistry teacher at the Realgymnasium had aroused my enthusiasm for this subject … I struggled through under conditions which were far from carefree … I was able to communicate my love and my knowledge of chemistry to a lot of young people … Chemistry was a good part of my life, which has been infinitely happy!

I wish all students that they will be able to experience the conclusion of my decade-long pleasure:
To be able to be a student,
To love the chosen faculty,
To give the fruits of one’s labours more to others than to oneself,
And to value what we all love, “our science”, higher than the materialist or statistical value to ourselves.