Female firsts in construction
For Women’s History Month (1 – 31 March), we look back on some of the great female firsts in construction. These achievements are the building blocks for today’s women to realise their potential and succeed in their chosen role.
Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676) was the first woman to take on an active role in a building project, controlling the designs and building programme for the improvements to her Westmorland estates. Nice one Lady Ann!
Around 1701, Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham produced the earliest architectural drawings known to be by a woman, for the rebuilding of St Andrew’s church in Staffordshire. Could your drawings turn into the next architectural master piece?
Sarah Guppy contributed to the design of Britain's infrastructure, and in 1811 she patented the first of her inventions, a method of making safe piling for bridges. Although, she gave the design away for free as she believed women shouldn’t be “too boastful”. Would she have been so modest now?
In 1898, Ethel Charles became the first woman to gain entry to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) , followed by her sister Bessie in 1900. Do you aspire to leave your mark on the world by becoming an architect?
In 1906, Alice Perry is understood to be the first woman to graduate with a degree in engineering in Ireland or Great Britain - possibly the world! She graduated with a first class honours from Queen's College Galway (now NUI, Galway). Is a degree the right route for you?
In 1918, Dame Caroline Haslett DBE, JP was the first secretary of the Women's Engineering Society and soon became the voice for women in engineering worldwide. Her work inspired many women to go into engineering and business. Thank you Caroline!
In 1922, Irene Barclay became the first female Chartered Surveyor in Britain and was one of the key social reformers of the 20th century for her work, improving housing conditions in the slums of St. Pancras. Could you improve the housing in your area?
In 1929, Amy Johnson became the first British woman to qualify as a Ground Engineer and for a brief time, she was the only woman in the world to hold that job title! And… Amy was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia – wow!
In 1929-32, Elisabeth Scott was the first female architect to win an international architecture competition for her design of the rebuild of the Shakespeare Memorial Centre (now the Royal Shakespeare Theatre) in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Waterloo Bridge is also known as ‘Ladies Bridge,’ as it was constructed by around 350 women during WWII. Remember this the next time you walk over the bridge.
In late 90’s, early 00’s, Carol Bell was Deputy Project Manager for the award-winning Eden Project in Cornwall - the largest conservatory in the world. Would you like to take on an exciting project like this?
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, London-based architect Zaha Hadid won the 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize — the first woman ever to receive architecture's highest honour! Zaha sadly passed away in 2016, but her legacy and impact on the architecture world lives on.
Check out our previous blog posts on women in construction and see if working in the industry could be for you!