What if we ask you to name at least one female engineer and her invention that you remember? Well, it is almost impossible for the majority of the students. However, if we ask you who is Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell, even a fifth grader would be able to answer it. Throughout the history, engineering has always been regarded as male-dominated sector, and women are always excluded from it. It is not only about one field, be it education system, social activities, politics, or any industry, there have been hardly any recognition for the female contributors who revolutionized the world. But gradually time changed, and women were credited for their great works and inventions. Those women who never came in highlight started to come forward to contribute significantly in different aspects of life. Nora Stanton Barney was the first woman who received the degree in engineering in 1905. Since then, there was no looking back, and millions of women completed their degree courses in this field.
So here we are listing a few female engineers who overcame gender discrimination and social challenges and gave us some of the amazing inventions. Take a look:
Emily Warren Roebling
Here is the evident example of a strong and gutsy woman who devoted her life to completing the work left by her husband. Emily Roebling never thought of becoming an engineer, but ironically she is now remembered for one of the biggest engineering achievements ever. Her husband, John Augustus Roebling, was the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge but became bed-ridden due to paralysis. He couldn’t do any of his work without the help of his wife, so she took over the responsibility for day-to-day work and project management. She started studying the technical issues, calculations, stress analysis, construction, material, etc. The bridge was finally completed in 1883 and declared as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
She is the first female to get the electrical engineering degree. Emily Clarke was the student of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed her degree in 1918. From 1919 to 1945, she became a salaried employee just after two years of employment at General Electric, which was a great achievement at that time. She invented Clarke Calculator to solve electric power transmission line issues like equations of current, and voltage regarding power. This specialized calculator was highly credited, and she received the patent in 1921 for the same. Later, she joined the University of Texas as electrical engineer teacher, first female professor of this subject in the US, and was there for ten years.
Martha Coston was a businesswoman and an inventor. When she was 21, her husband died leaving her with four children to support. She discovered the design of pyrotechnic flare that was left by her husband and worked on it for almost ten years. She revised it to create a bright, multicolored, and long-lasting tool for communication. She got the patent in 1859 for this device that can be used to signal at sea. The first order was placed by the US Navy for 300 flares, and she received $20,000 for it, these signaling devices are still used by them.
Stephanie was working for DuPont when she discovered liquid crystalline polymers. It was then used to create Kevlar, a stiff synthetic fiber that is five times stronger than steel. Kevlar is the main element to make bulletproof vests, airplane fuselages, radial tires, fiber optic cables, and also other everyday products, such as camping gear, safety helmets, snow skis and cables. She is one of the first female research chemists and received National Medal of Technology in 1996 for her accomplishment. She is also named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003 and was awarded the Perkin Medal in 1997 by The American Chemical Society. Apart from this super-strong material, which we are thankful for, she holds 17 US patents for her research work.
Beulah Louise Henry
She is also known as ‘the lady Edison’ because of her number of inventions that she patented in the 1920s and 1930s that include a doll with flexible arms, a bobbin-free lockstitch sewing machine, a doll with a radio inside, a vacuum ice cream freezer, and a typewriter that can make multiple copies without any carbon paper. She completed her degree between 1909 to 1912 from the Elizabeth College in North Carolina.
She is referred to as ‘Mother of Modern Management’ and had made some significant contribution in the field of industrial engineering and psychology with her studies about workplace patterns and ergonomics. She was the first female member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She worked at General Electric to upgrade the kitchen design and household appliances. The life of the modern working mother is often regarded as tough, but Lillian Gilbreth handled it perfectly without any time-saving machines and gadgets. She was the mother of twelve children and labeled as ‘a genius in the art of living’ by a monthly journal of California.
So we guess it’s time to cheer for these extremely talented women who broke all the barriers and stereotypes and proved their excellence across the globe.
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