Remarkable Women Around the World in the Construction Industry

March 6th through the 12th is National Women in Construction Week! We not only want to honor our Laux ladies, but also the female pioneers of the construction industry as well! Although this industry is male dominant, there are many points in construction history that are actually women led and created. These are just a few women who’ve advocated for others during their time, as well as paved the road for the future of women in Construction.

Sarah “Tabitha” Babbitt

Many believe that Samuel Miller was the first to invent the circular saw in 1777, but research has shown that his patent was for the sewing machine and only mentioned a circular blade. Sarah “Tabitha” Babbitt was actually the first to truly invent the circular saw between 1810 and 1813 for sawmills. Her prototype was a circular blade attached to her spinning wheel, as she was a weaver, and used the pedal to power the blade. Unfortunately, Babbitt was forbidden to patent her creation due to her religious beliefs as a Shaker.

Emily Warren Roebling

Carolus-Duran, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Carolus-Duran, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Emily was directly involved with the construction industry when she married Washington Roebling, an engineering officer. He was appointed to construct the Brooklyn Bridge, which would be the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time, and first with steel cables. When her husband had become sick, she headed the project and became the chief engineer until its completion in 1883. She also supervised the construction of their family home and was an inspiration to their son who received his civil engineering degree.

Rosies of World War 2

Photo credit National Archives
Photo credit National Archives

Rosie is an American History icon during the second world war, but the power behind the real Rosie’s truly impressive. It’s estimated that 6.5 million women joined the work force in white- and blue-collar jobs such as construction, steel, lumber, and others! In Oregon, 65% of the new hires in the shipyards were female. Women began trading non-war related jobs for war-production as they found the work not only helpful financially, but empowering. This was one thing that helped catapult women’s rights movements of the 1960’s, as they loved their jobs.

Edith Clarke

Public Domain/Wikipedia Creative Commons Licensing
Public Domain/Wikipedia Creative Commons Licensing

A woman of many firsts is Edith Clarke, who invented the graphing calculator for electrical engineers. She was the first woman to earn an Electrical Engineering degree from MIT, as well as it being her Master of Science; and she created the ‘Clarke Calculator’ to help solve difficult equations when solving power transmission line problems. She was also involved in the construction of hydroelectric dams out west. She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015, and a multitude of awards for her positions and publications.

Ladies Bridge

Two female builders carry hods of bricks on a building site, 1941 © Imperial War Museum
Two female builders carry hods of bricks on a building site, 1941 © Imperial War Museum

World War 2 not only affected the women in America, but also in the UK. The Waterloo Bridge was under renovation and 500 men working dropped down to only 50. The contractor, Peter Lind & Company, drafted around 350 women to continue the project, and once completed, the idea of women building the bridge turned into a rumor. Finally in 2015, pictures were found of the women working on the bridge, proving the bridge was mostly constructed by women. It’s now known as Ladies Bridge as a heritage landmark and a documentary was made about the women finally giving them the recognition they deserved.

Nora Stanton

Nora Stanton, first female member of the American Society of Civil Engineers
National Photo Company Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

In 1905, Nora became the first woman to graduate with a civil engineering degree in the U.S., which she earned from Cornell University. That same year, she became the first woman to be admitted as a junior member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 1909, she was chief draftsman for the Radley Steel Construction Company and began working part-time in 1914 as an architect and developer. Nora is known for being the drafting technician for New York’s first reservoir and aqueduct in the Catskill Mountains, which has been known as the largest repair in New York City water supply history.

These incredible women never let societal norms influence their desires to pursue construction and inventing, and women all over the world are forever grateful. Although our Laux Ladies haven’t filed a patent or directed a project (yet), that doesn’t make them any less amazing and honorable! They are all deeply involved with their work and are able to adapt to any situation and provide the best outcome. Each of them brings so much positivity and determination to Laux Construction, and we’re happy to say they are inspirations to all women who want to join the construction industry.

Thank you for everything you have done, are doing, and continue to do for us! We appreciate you more than you’ll ever know!

“Without the Laux Ladies, our jobs in the field would not run as smoothly as they do.”

Mark Taylor, Site Superintendent

If you’ve enjoyed reading and learning about the history of women in construction, and want to help us celebrate, please share this post to your socials or leave a comment below!

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