Evalene Wasson

Wasson, Evalene

(1904 – 2005)

Evalene (Jenner) Wasson was born in Marysville, Washington on September 13, 1904. The oldest of four children, Jenner grew up in Oso and graduated from Arlington High School 1922. She then moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington. She had initial plans to be a journalist, but switched majors and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1928. She was one of just two female engineering students in the 600-person college of engineering at the time. 

A bright student, in the spring of her senior year she took the city’s Civil Service examination and by August after graduation she was awarded a draftsman job in the City of Seattle’s Engineering Department. During the depression years she was laid off and took a job as a tracer for naval architect William C. Nickum, and then worked for the University of Washington Registrar’s Office. In 1935, Seattle City Light offered her a job in their engineering office. However, despite her engineering rating, she mainly was relegated to doing secretarial jobs. Struggling in a male-dominated field, in 1940 she returned to the City’s engineering department and continued to work there for the rest of her career, except during a seven-month period during WWII. During that time, she took a job with the Army Corps of Engineers.

While there Evalene struggled to advance in male-dominated engineering ranks and continued until a Civil Service examine was offered for advanced grades. After taking the test in 1956, Jenner received an associate rating. A few years later she received her senior engineer’s rating and in 1962 was officially licensed as a civil engineer. Throughout her career she mainly designed sewer and drainage systems scattered across the city.

Evalene was married to fellow engineer, Charles O. Wasson. She was one of the founding members of the Women’s Engineering Society, forerunner of today’s Pacific Northwest Section of the National Society of Women Engineers. She retired from the city in 1975 and returned to the Oso area. She passed away there at the age of 100 on April 19, 2005.

– Michael C Houser

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