Exactly a century ago, in 1919, WES was formed to inspire, support and encourage women to become engineers, technicians, electricians, motor mechanics, construction workers, pilots, machine shop operatives, draughtswomen and every other type of engineer you can think of. In their centenary year, many women who excelled against the odds are being celebrated.
The 100 Years of Women in Engineering campaign has identified the top 100 women engineers who have been influential in the UK in all engineering fields. Many were IET members, for example, the first female member of the IEE, Hertha Ayrton was recognised for her work on electric arcs and received the Hughes Medal of Royal Society in 1906.
The list also includes founders of the Women’s Engineering Society such as Rachel Parsons and Laura Annie Willson MBE, and its first secretary, Caroline Haslett DBE, who was also the first woman to be made a companion of the IEE. As well as presidents of the society and IET members, pilot and engineer Amy Johnson, and Mabel Matthews, the founder of the Electrical Association for Women.
It also includes groups of women, such as the unnamed construction workers who rebuilt Waterloo Bridge during the Second World War, also known as the Ladies’ Bridge, which opened in 2945, and the women of Bletchley Park whose stories are coming to light now.
The list coincides with the publication of a book charting the early years of the Women’s Engineering Society. Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines by Henrietta Heald tells the stories of these pioneering women and their influence on the engineering landscape during a discouraging time for women in this male-dominated profession.
Anne Locker, IET Library and Archives Manager, who featured on the judging panel to compile the list, said: “The list recognises the enormous contribution women engineers have made to engineering over the past 100 years, from aircraft to domestic wiring. I discovered many new stories from this project, and there is a great deal to be learned from the lives of these pioneers.”
Anne worked alongside Dr Nina Baker, Dawn Bonfield MBE, Henrietta Heald, Professor Gordon Masterton OBE, Dr Jess Wade and Dr Will Whittow in picking the 100 Women in Engineering.
Much of the content and images that accompany the biographies of these women on the list were sourced from our very own IET Archives. To view the full list visit the website.