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Women's History Month in Construction: A Look at the Women Who Built Our World

Women's History Month is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than by recognizing the women who have helped shape the construction industry over the years? Although may stories of women shaping this industry have been lost over time, there are many inspiring stories of female achievement in the world of construction - from the first female bricklayer in the US to the countless women who worked hard to break down barriers in the industry. In this blog post, we'll take a look at some of these incredible women and the impact they have had on the industry.

Julia Morgan

The first woman to be admitted to the architecture program at l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts

Julia Morgan was a pioneering woman in the field of architecture. In 1890, she was the first woman to be admitted to the prestigious architecture program at l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This was a major accomplishment for her and a huge step forward for women in the industry. Upon her return from France, Morgan set up her own architecture firm in San Francisco, California. She went on to design more than 700 buildings including Hearst Castle. She was also the first female architect to become a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Morgan's career spanned over four decades and she was awarded the AIA Gold Medal in 2014. Her groundbreaking achievement in the field of architecture continues to inspire women today. It was her hard work and determination that opened the doors for other female architects to pursue their dreams and make their mark on the world.

Lillian Gilbreth

The first woman to earn a Ph.D. in engineering

Lillian Gilbreth is one of the most significant figures in the history of women in construction and engineering. She was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in engineering, which she earned from Brown University in 1915. Her interest in engineering began when she read about the innovative work of her father, who was a civil engineer. In 1910, Lillian enrolled at Brown University as one of the first women to be admitted to their engineering program. Throughout her career, Lillian Gilbreth helped pioneer many of the modern construction processes that are still in use today. She focused on making construction methods easier, faster, and safer for workers by introducing ergonomics into the field. She was also the first to apply psychology to workplace efficiency and management, a field now known as industrial engineering. Lillian’s achievements were revolutionary and inspired generations of women engineers to come. She received numerous honors throughout her lifetime, including being inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Emily Roebling

The first documented woman in construction

Emily Roebling is often credited as the first documented woman in construction. While she was not formally trained in engineering, she made a significant contribution to the Brooklyn Bridge project and is widely recognized for her accomplishments. While her husband, Washington, was the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, Emily assumed a large portion of the responsibility after her husband fell ill due to caisson disease during the construction process. She took on the role of field engineer, working directly with the laborers, contractors, and architects to ensure that all aspects of the project were completed correctly and on time. She was deeply involved in the design process and worked closely with chief architect John A. Roebling to develop the plans for the bridge. Emily’s contributions to the Brooklyn Bridge project were invaluable, but her impact extends far beyond that one project. Her work on this project proved that women could be successful in a field traditionally dominated by men and opened up more opportunities for women in construction. Her legacy continues today and serves as an inspiration to future generations of women engineers.

Elsie Eaves

The first woman inducted into American Society of Civil Engineers

Elsie Eaves was the first woman to be inducted into the American Society of Civil Engineers. Her remarkable career started in 1922, when she became a surveyor at a construction site in Portland, Oregon. She quickly rose up the ranks and was soon working in an engineering office in Seattle. In 1925, Eaves earned her professional engineer’s license and began to take on larger projects. From 1927 to 1930, she worked as a lead engineer for the city of Seattle, overseeing a range of infrastructure projects. This included the construction of streets, sidewalks, sewer systems and bridges. Throughout her career, Eaves also worked on projects outside of Seattle. In 1935, she supervised the design and construction of a bridge in Tacoma, Washington and another bridge in New York City. In 1941, she was appointed to a special panel of engineers by President Roosevelt to study the effects of heavy traffic loads on bridges and pavements. In 1945, Eaves made history when she became the first woman to be inducted into the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). This was a major milestone for female engineers, who had previously been excluded from the profession. Eaves remained active in the ASCE until her retirement in 1947. During her career, Eaves also made significant contributions to engineering education. She lectured at the University of Washington and served as a mentor to many young women studying engineering. She was passionate about increasing opportunities for female engineers and encouraging young women to pursue careers in the field. Elsie Eaves was an inspiring figure and an important pioneer for female engineers. Her groundbreaking achievements paved the way for generations of women to pursue careers in construction and engineering.


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