A lot can be said about how people perceive the capability of women in the past. Some kept with the tradition of gender norms, while others simply believed that women were incapable of the jobs men could. Sometimes it’s just bigotry altogether. Still, the efforts of the suffragists and egalitarians who pushed for social equality were not wasted, as the dawn of the 20th-21st centuries brought about new ideals that were progressive and frowned at unfair social norms.
There exist tales of historical women who defied expectations for the passion of their craft. There were those who were denied the respect they deserve and those who did not care for acknowledgement; they only wanted to hone their talents unhindered.
This notion was true even in the construction industry. Construction had always been seen as a man’s job, and women were barely encouraged to be part of the workforce. The names of women would rarely pop up due to the social constructs of the past. Those who were interested and wanted to become builders of the world were vilified by prejudice. Times were hard for them, but luckily, times have changed for the better. Listed below are just some of the ladies who stuck with their guts and showed the people that they could do more than what society wanted them to do.
Nora Stanton Barney
Nora Stanton Barney was an Englishwoman who was one of the first women in the United States to graduate with an engineering degree. She was an active member of the women’s suffrage movement, fought for women’s rights and chose to follow her calling in life rather than live out the same calling as most wives in her time. While her efforts landed her a spot in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), her gender made her inadmissible for full membership. Not even the courts could help her advance her career. Her frustrations did not stop there, as her first marriage only lasted a few years due to differences in interest– she wanted to continue her career while her husband wanted a housewife. Despite the bias of tradition and social norms, she persisted in following her dreams and promoting equal rights for the women of the world. Nora’s life story is one of the finer examples of living in a gender-prejudiced society.
Though denied a full membership when she was alive, she was eventually recognized one century later by the current ASCE Executive Committee, giving her a posthumous advancement to Fellow status.
Lina Bo Bardi
She graced Brazil with her ideas in design and architecture. Even under the scrutiny of society and status, she was not deterred from moving forward with her life. Lina Bo Bardi embraced Brazil with admirable zeal as she found that the country has a way of influencing her creativity. One of her famous works involves the creation of the São Paulo Museum of Art, where its peculiar design has given it its distinct identity. Lina was in charge of the overall building design. She was eager to do so in a way that made its overall architecture as artistic as the artwork it houses. Her contribution to Brazil has made her one of the most respected architects around the world.
Elsie Eaves was the first in a lot of things within her field of expertise. Among her accolades, she was the first civil engineer to be elected as Member in the American Association of Cost Engineers, the first woman to receive the international Executive Service Corps “Service to Country” Award, and the first woman to receive the Award of Merit from the American Association of Cost Engineers. Elsie Eaves earned her degree in Civil Engineering back in 1920 and worked on projects concerning infrastructure and data collection at the Engineering and News-Record. Here, she headed the ENR’s Post War Planning in the construction industry. After her retirement, she became an advisor to the National Commission on Urban Affairs and the International Executive Service Corps for housing costs and construction costs in Iran, respectively.
Very little is said of the obstacles she encountered during her career, indicating that she was in the company of more respectful people than the other women on this list.
Aida-Cruz Del Rosario
Aida-Cruz Del Rosario had a sculptor for a father. Though she initially wanted to pursue dentistry, she decided that creating . She went to study architecture at the University of Santo Tomas. At the age of 25, she became the first registered female architect in the country. Aida-Cruz spent the rest of her career working on buildings with her husband. She revealed at her 90th birthday celebration about how fulfilled her life is thanks to her family and her profession.
Emily Warren Roebling
While the other women were passionate about infrastructure as a career choice, Emily Roebling’s passion for it came from her husband’s misfortunes. Emily and Washington Roebling’s names are commonly associated with the Brooklyn Bridge. Washington was the chief engineer of the project, but he contracted the caisson disease during work. It affected him to the point of becoming bedridden. His wife took on the role of becoming the middleman between him and the workers of the bridge. This arrangement, coupled with Washington imparting his knowledge on infrastructure, made Emily extremely knowledgeable with the job. As construction went on, she became completely immersed with the project and took on the duties of being a chief engineer. Her aptitude and involvement made her respected by workers and politicians alike. When the Brooklyn Bridge finished construction in 1883, Emily was honored by Abram Hewwit, who gave a speech at the opening ceremony. Hewitt praised her devotion to her husband and the craft of which she took the time to understand. The bridge carries a plaque that is dedicated to the Roebling family.
The lengths they all went through should serve as an inspiration not just for women, but for everyone who is scrutinized by those who think they cannot achieve their aspirations. The intolerance of the world was nothing but an obstacle for these fine ladies. Excuses, strong and weak, are just words for the lazy. They should be temporary at best, for achieving greatness requires the strongest of wills and the thickest of skins.