It is hard to overstate the impact the First World War had on every aspect of life, from technology to politics to travel to social norms. The lives of ordinary women started to open up like never before, we take a look at how this change impacted engineering.

Caroline Haslett & WES

Caroline Haslett was born in 1895. Her father was a railway fitter and an activist in the co-operative movement. Caroline obtained a scholarship to Haywards Heath School in 1906 but did not excel and instead looked at traditional career paths available to young women at the time. She moved to London to attend a commercial college with the view to going into secretarial work, having rejected nursing and teaching.

In early 1914, Caroline started as a junior clerk for the Cochran Boiler Company. The company was run by family friends and provided the ideal environment for Caroline to find her footing. By 1918 she was running Cochran’s London office. Caroline asked the company to give her some practical engineering training and in 1918 she spent some time at the engineering works in Annan, Scotland, learning how to design boilers. Her father had already taught her how to use tools, and she was aware that everyday problems which could be solved by engineering. 

Caroline joined the suffragettes in 1914 and daringly chalked some slogans on the pavement in Whitehall. A kindly policeman suggested that the 19 year old was too young to be arrested and told her to run along – and she did!

Unlike other early women engineers who had gained experience in the War, Caroline did not pursue a professional engineering career despite the opportunities at Cochran’s. Many engineering companies were not able to continue employing women after 1918 but Cochran’s seemed to be enthusiastic about keeping Caroline. However, she had spotted an advert in Engineering for a "Lady with some experience in engineering works as organizing secretary for a women’s engineering society". Although apparently she wasn’t confident about her chances, she answered the advert and was interviewed by Lady Parsons, one of the founders of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES).  To her surprise, she was offered the job.

WES was founded in 1919 to help those women who, after gaining technical experience in the War, wanted to continue a career in engineering. It covered all forms of engineering and technical work.

The decision not to pursue a traditional engineering career was an excellent one for Caroline. While her contemporaries struggled to establish their post-war careers, she used her formidable administrative skills to quickly progress in WES, going on to be President. She was a founder of the Electrical Association for Women, and spokesperson for women in engineering in the UK establishment and internationally. Among many other posts, Haslett was appointed as the first woman member of the British Electricity Authority and was the first woman Council member of the British Institute of Management. She would be a prominent voice in the organisation of women in munitions in the Second World War and was asked by the Government to travel to Germany and advise on post-war reconstruction. She was awarded a CBE in 1932 and a DBE in 1947.

Description of Caroline's time at Annan
Description of Caroline's time at Annan.
Dame Caroline Haslett

Dame Caroline Haslett

by Karyn French | 25 Oct, 2018

108 comments

Leave a comment
  1. mdf | Apr 14, 2019

    پروفیل ام دی اف چیست

  2. James Baktish | Apr 12, 2019

    Automotive Upholstery. This is our favorite work to do! We love working on all kinds of cars, trucks, SUVs, and RV's. If you want your initials appearing within the upholstery, we can make it look oh so good.

    - Chandler Custom Upholstery

  3. Michelle | Apr 12, 2019
    This is awesome information here! Check out my website for the best Massage Spa Rock Hill SC has to offer!
  4. Roger Briksum | Apr 11, 2019

    We're here to help you, the customer, determine exactly what your carpet needs. You may not know exactly what that is, which is why we will ask you the right questions to design your custom carpet cleaning plan.

    - Arvada Carpet Cleaners

  5. Matt Sputsner | Apr 09, 2019

    Great story! I love this article. Thank you for sharing.

    Loveland Gutter Replacement

  6. Shawn Berry | Apr 08, 2019
  7. Prakash | Apr 07, 2019
    Quality content is the secret to be a focus for the people to pay a quick visit the web page, that’s what this site is providing.VTU Notes
  8. jeevan dada | Apr 07, 2019
    Thanks on your marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back someday. I want to encourage continue your great work, have a nice afternoon!VTU 4th Sem Civil Notes
  9. yash gavasi | Apr 07, 2019
    Pretty section of content. I simply stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to claim that I acquire actually loved account your weblog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing for your augment or even I achievement you get right of entry to constantly rapidly.Miss You Status
  10. Frank Ticki | Apr 05, 2019

    What an inspiring article. Thank you for sharing.

    Limo Service Fort Collins

  11. dean | Apr 05, 2019
    Another great blogwww.a1aimpactwindows.com
  12. Elizabeth Squires | Apr 04, 2019

    Thank you for sharing this information. Good job!

    Carpet Cleaners Fort Collins

  13. dean | Apr 04, 2019
  14. dean | Apr 03, 2019
  15. Ashley Jenks | Apr 02, 2019

    What an inspirational story. Great work on writing this.

    Rain Gutters Longmont

  16. dan | Apr 02, 2019
  17. Matt Rubley | Apr 01, 2019

    Great read, very nice story. 

    Fort Collins Lawn Care

  18. Matt Rubley | Apr 01, 2019

    Nice article. Great work on this.

    Lawn Service Fort Collins

  19. welding glasses shade 14 | Mar 31, 2019
    http://myhelmetsguide.com/welding-glasses-shade-14/
  20. dean | Mar 30, 2019
    Another great blogClick Here
  21. Jenn Karkner | Mar 29, 2019

    I love this article. This inspires me as a woman and an aspiring engineer. Thank you for posting.

    Limo Service Fort Collins

  22. dan | Mar 29, 2019
    Another great blogsuncoastclaims.com
  23. dean | Mar 28, 2019
    Another great blogTile installation
  24. john | Mar 27, 2019

    The legislations and bodies offer women with little opportunity to thrive. 

    Sir John 

    Public relations concrete pool deck

  25. sir john sirleaf | Mar 27, 2019
    <a href="https://www.pooldeckresurfacingsd.com/concrete-pool-deck">concrete pool deck</a>
  26. Bill Wooley | Mar 26, 2019

    Very nice article. I love it! Thanks for posting.

    Septic Tank Pumping Fort Collins

  27. dean | Mar 26, 2019
    Another great blog lead abatement boynton beach
  28. dean | Mar 25, 2019
  29. Edward Racer | Mar 25, 2019

    Great article! I enjoy reading this. Thanks for sharing.

    Ann Arbor Party Bus Rental

  30. dean | Mar 23, 2019
  31. dean | Mar 21, 2019
    Another great blogBest Public Adjusters
  32. Tessa Trumpy | Mar 21, 2019
    Home Solar Installation Longmont is another great example of engineering. Thank you for sharing this article.
  33. derrick | Mar 21, 2019

    industrial epoxy flooring

    Offers upto date information and we love it.

  34. derrick | Mar 21, 2019
    <a href="https://www.epoxysandiego.com">industrial epoxy flooring</a>
  35. Craig | Mar 20, 2019
    As a Personal injury lawyer, I find this article very interesting! Thank you for the info.
  36. dean | Mar 20, 2019
    Another great blogimpact windows
  37. tig welding | Mar 20, 2019
  38. myhelmets guide | Mar 20, 2019
  39. myhelmets guide | Mar 20, 2019
  40. WELDING GLASSES | Mar 20, 2019
  41. Robert Phung | Mar 19, 2019

    I'm really impressed on how you wrote this article. Great story indeed.

    New Home Windows

  42. dean | Mar 19, 2019
  43. dean | Mar 18, 2019
    Another great blog popcorn removal pompano
  44. David Gulzar | Mar 15, 2019

    This proves that women are capable of doing things that men can do. Thanks for sharing this. 

    Glass Repair Denver

  45. john | Mar 15, 2019

    Another great blog

    <a href="https://cummingfenceinstallation.com/">Cumming</a>
  46. Amila Lander | Mar 14, 2019

    Nice blog. Very inspiring.

    Woodlands Limo Rental

  47. smithwig | Mar 14, 2019

    Criminal justice and Computer technological know-how should in all likelihood get you a Write my assignment operating with forensics or something like that. I think you may be k, however suitable success anyway

  48. Don | Mar 13, 2019
    We use engineering work for our Tree Trimming Services on the daily! Awesome little history lesson. 
  49. dean | Mar 13, 2019
    Another great blogKitchen
  50. Bobby Shiffrin | Mar 12, 2019

    Nice article. Great website.

    Tree Trimming Fort Collins

    Leave a comment

    Women, Legislation & the Institutions 


    It was during the First World War that many women had their first experience of engineering work; although women did work in factories before this, it was largely in operating machinery rather than in building or maintaining it. Women were trained in engineering work under the policy of dilution; women carried out many tasks that had previously been done by skilled men. By 1918 almost 1 million women were working in engineering and munitions. Although it was shown that trained women performed extremely well, the 1919 Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act forced women to give up their jobs to men returning from military service. Unions such as the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) were against female engineers, viewing them as competition for their members; the forced loss of women’s jobs was part of the terms of an ASE negotiated Government agreement. We have to remember the context of course - these men had left jobs to fight and were returning having experienced unfathomable distress, they now had to support themselves and their families.

    Cleone de Heveningham Benest wrote to the Institution of Automotive Engineers (IAE) asking if women can enter as Graduates in 1907. It was decided against but that interested ladies could receive reports of Proceedings in the meantime” . In 1914 IAE Member Lucien Alphonse Legros put the matter before Council, arguing that women should be admitted. In the same year Dorothée Aurélie Marianne Pullinger applied as an Associate as the bye-laws stated a “person” could apply. However, on advice from the Royal Society it was advised that a person meant a man - Legros and Pullinger were duly refused. Another request, on the basis that women’s war work had altered things, was put forward internally in 1916 but it was again denied. Things changed in 1920, IAE accepted a request from WES to accept women. The first two to join were Benest and Pullinger, they were admitted in the same session in 1920.

    IAE merged with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) in 1947. Founded in 1847, the bye-laws explicitly excluded women. However, they changed their outlook in 1920 following the passage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act. This specifically stated that sex or marital status could not be a bar to admission to any incorporated society and forbade Universities from regulating the admission of women. IMechE’s lawyer advised that he, him and his” now had to read he or she” in the bye-laws etc. He added that all other qualifications required for membership remained unchanged – a female applicant for membership would have to meet the same technical and educational standards as male applicants. It was presumably with this advice in mind that IMechE Minutes contain a footnote stating that the decision in December 1920 not to elect Miss Verena Holmes as a member “was made strictly on the merits of the case, and without prejudice on account of the candidate’s sex”. Holmes was elected in 1924, becoming the IMechE’s first female Member. The first woman member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) was Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan in 1927. 

    Although it took pressure from WES and legislation to ease the passage of women into some institutions, others were ahead of the issue. The Institution of Engineering and Technology's (IET) first female Student, Graduate and Associate Member was Gertrude Entwisle (1916, 1919 and 1920). However, Hertha Ayrton was their first female member in 1889.

    Both Pullinger and Holmes were active members of WES. It was formed in 1919 by women who wanted to resist the pressure to leave engineering following the War and to promote engineering as a suitable profession for women. WES was active throughout the inter-war years, and was instrumental in mobilizing large numbers of women to enter engineering during the Second World War. It was able to take steps to ensure that women engineers were not subject to the same post-war pressures after 1945.

    Cleone de Heveningham Benest
    Cleone de Heveningham Benest.

    Verena Holmes, application form
    Verena Holmes' application form.
    Credits/footnotes:

    Haslett papers and image IET Archives.