On International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate female civil engineers and women related to the bridge!
The first member of the public to cross the Bridge was a woman called Mary Griffiths, from Hanham. Urged on by her uncle, she picked up her long skirt and raced a young man from Clifton to the Leigh Woods side beating him by a few yards. She lived until she was 94!
Our first female Bridge Master Trish Johnson joined the team in 2016. Trish is a Chartered Civil Engineer and former Regional Director at the Institution of Civil Engineers, With several years’ experience as Head of Maintenance at the Severn Bridge, Trish is no stranger to iconic structures!
Historically two of the most prominent and earliest Female Civil Engineers from the UK are Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan and Mary Isolen Fergusson.
Dorothy Buchanan, 1899 – 1995, was the first female member of the ICE after successfully passing the admission examination in 1927. She went to work on the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle and the Lambeth Bridge in London. A fitting quote from Dorothy for today ‘I felt that I represented all the women in the world. It was my hope that I would be followed by many others’.
Mary Isolen Fergusson, 1914 – 1997, was the first female fellow of the ICE and was elected in 1957. She worked on bridges in the Highlands and other infrastructure projects in Scotland.
Another female engineer who must be mentioned is Sarah Guppy, 1770 – 1852, who patented several domestic products such as an exercise bed and a breakfast machine! Sarah Guppy was an extraordinarily talented, creative and highly intelligent woman whose remarkable inventions rightly deserve our attention and recognition. Although her patent of 1811 however can in no way be applied to Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Lastly, we thought we should highlight that it is The Women in Engineering Society 100th anniversary this year! WES was formed after World War 1 when women who worked in engineering and technical roles during the war wanted to stay in those roles after the war ended and they campaigned to do so. Check out their website for more details on women in engineering and join in their centenary celebration.