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History of the Women's Engineering Society

The WES was founded in 1919 to promote the study of engineering and for women working in the industry to meet and provide support. Records relating to The WES are held at the IET Archives.

  

 

The Women's Engineering Society (WES) was formed in 1919 [firstly] to promote the study and practice of engineering among women and, secondly, to enable technical women to meet and to facilitate the exchange of ideas respecting the interests, training and employment of technical women and the publication and communication of information on such subjects. The impetus behind this was the training and employment of many women in technical and engineering work during the First World War when, for the first time, women had been encouraged to use their engineering skills in the war effort.  

Cover of Women's work in engineering and shipbuilding during the War 1919 from WES collection NAEST 092 10 03

     Cover of the Woman Engineer Journal Vol.1 No.4 September 1920 entitled Scottish girls making artifical limbs              

The Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act forced these women to give up their posts in favour of returning servicemen. Many felt this to be unfair, and while most women went back (more or less contentedly) to domestic duties, a small number decided the take advantage of the training the war had given them and carry on as engineers.

Attendees to the WES Conference 1920s  

The WES provided invaluable support to these women, many of whom were the only female engineers in their factories or firms. They were able to meet with other engineers, exchange experiences, give papers and encourage girls to take up engineering as a profession. The WES also helped its members find jobs and lobbied for the acceptance of women on training courses.

 

  

The WES produced a journal, The Woman Engineer, the complete set is held in the IET Archives.The journals contain a wealth of knowledge not only of women in engineering but the journey of engineering in the UK since World War I. The early journals also contain technical papers by female engineers. 

These Journals, dating back to 1919, have now been digitised and can be searched by keyword or browsed using page-turning technology. For more information on the digitisation project and to access the Journals please visit The Woman Engineer page.

Notable women engineers

WES has been inspiring women engineers since 1919. Find out more about individual women engineers and WES Presidents from a comprehensive list on the WES website. 

Notable women include Amy Johnson, WES President 1935-1937 and aviation pioneer. The Amy Johnson biography includes information on her record-breaking adventures plus digital copies of her records held in the IET Archives.

Other resources of interest