February 25th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

My pals at HistoryLink.org have put together a weighty historical coffee table tome called The Future Remembered.

It’s all about the Century 21 Exposition, the Seattle world’s fair that began 50 years ago this April.

It’s 300 pages of insightful prose and luscious pictures concerning what is still probably the single most important event that ever happened here in Software City.

It’s proof of what a physical book can still be—an object of desire. (And a handy blunt instrument, should you need one.)

It gives you most of the individual subplots of the fair’s story, from the miraculously perfect design of the Space Needle to the erotic puppet show (by the future producers of Land of the Lost!).

These sub-stories are woven around a main narrative line, about a cabal of squarer-than-square civic boosters who pulled off a staggering feat of a spectacle, something that melded both high art and mass entertainment into one vision of a sleek modern tomorrow (that mostly still hasn’t shown up).

And it even turned a small profit, and left a 74-acre arts-and-recreation campus in the middle of town.

You should all look it up, check it out, even get one for your very own.


Indeed, there’s only only one small mini-gripe I’ve got with the document.

There’s a two page spread saluting “Women At Century 21.”

It honors Gracie Hansen (the brassy small-town hostess who ran one of the fair’s burlesque revues), Laurene Gandy (wife of fair exec Joe Gandy and a tireless worker for both the fair and the subsequent Seattle Center), and the other male execs’ wives (billed collectively as “Our Fair Ladies”).

But one prominent woman is not mentioned in the spread. Or in the entire book.

Dr. Dixy Lee Ray (1914-1994) was a marine biologist, a UW prof, and a science-ed host on KCTS.

Ray worked as a “science advisor” to the United States Science Pavilion at the fair. In this role, she was the pavilion’s chief spokesperson to the local media.

She then became the first head of the pavilion’s post-fair entity, the Pacific Science Center.

From there she became the highest ranking woman in Richard Nixon’s Executive Branch (running the Atomic Energy Commission).

From there she successfully ran for governor in 1976 as a “flag of convenience” Democrat.

Then she proceeded on an anti-environmentalist agenda, alienated just about the entire state Democratic Party, and lost her re-election bid in the 1980 primary.

Ray left behind a lot of political opponents.

And, admittedly, her later role with the Science Center held more authority than her role with the Science Pavilion.

But she should not be written out of the fair’s history.

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