Digitising the History of Women in Engineering

Added: 1st April 2015 Source: Women's Engineering Society

1 April 2015

The Women's Engineering Society launches a kickstarter fund to digitise the Society's 96 year old journal 'The Woman Engineer'. 

At the beginning of the twentieth century, only a handful of women studied engineering at university but none were awarded a degree because they were not allowed to become members of the universities. During World War 1 over 800 thousand women worked in engineering, some as technicians but many as engineers and technical managers, but due to the "Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act" women who started working in engineering during the war had to give up their work and return to domestic duties. Pioneering women like Lady Parsons and her daughter Rachel Parsons campaigned to retain their engineering careers and as they were not allowed to join professional bodies or to publish technical papers they created their own professional body in 1919 called the Women's Engineering Society (WES).  

In December 1919, WES published its first journal "The Women Engineer". The first journal described the aims and objectives of WES, the services WES provided (which included a list of facilities which would train women in engineering, companies who would hire female engineers and information on the first social event run by WES). The journal listed the institutions which admitted women, a series of articles on why women should be allowed to work as engineers including one from Lord Weir stating that he could train women quicker than men. There followed articles on how to train to become a civil engineer, what it was like working in an engineering shop and completed with adverts.  

The journal has been produced quarterly since 1920 and they are all held in the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) archives in London, and it is these journals that WES now seeks to digitise. The Journals contain valuable information on WES members, technical papers written by women, timescales of when members were allowed to obtain degrees and join professional bodies as well as what was happening politically in the UK over the past 96 years. WES has had many fabulous Presidents including Amy Johnson, Caroline Haslett, Daphne Jackson and Dorothy Hatfield OBE.

WES also helped start the International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists (INWES) with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) 51 years ago, and this group still hold an International conference every 3 years. WES supported and facilitated the formation of the Electrical Association of Women in 1924, the Daphne Jackson Fellowships in 1985, and was also instrumental in setting up WISE in 1984. The journals contain information about the formation and growth of these still thriving organisations.

Dr Carol Marsh, Immediate Past President of the Women's Engineering Society said 'It is important that we do not lose the history of engineering since World War 1 and that the achievements of these extraordinary women are maintained for future generations.'   

WES will be 100 years old in 2019 and to celebrate this milestone WES is collating information on its history and recoding its achievements. This Kickstarter project has been launched to digitise the WES journals so they can be made available for anyone interested in the history of the Society and of women in engineering. Donations can be made here.

Or please contact WES directly if you would like to donate.


  • Founded in 1919, the Women's Engineering Society (WES) is a professional, not-for-profit network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development. Although the world has changed since a group of women decided to band together to create an organisation to support women in engineering, the need is very much still there. WES works in a number of ways to support women in STEM, to encourage the study and application of engineering, to promote gender equality and diversity in the workplace, and to award excellence and encourage achievement through our awards and grants schemes. To find out more, please click here.
  • Recent and past copies of the WES journal 'The Woman Engineer', including the first edition, can be seen here. The archive of journals is held at Savoy Hill House in London, as part of the Institution of Engineering and Technology archive. These can be viewed by appointment. Please contact the IET archive here.
  • For further details on this Kickstarter project, please contact Dr Carol Marsh, Immediate Past President of WES, on carol@carolmarsh.co.uk or the WES office on office@wes.org.uk, tel. 01438 211403. The full cost of the WES journal digitisation is £4000.

Tagged as: Women in STEM