The Woman Engineer (TWE) is the journal of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). It has been produced since 1919, the year that WES was formed, and has usually appeared on a quarterly basis. The cover of the first issue, published in December 1919, is shown above and the cover of the 10th issue, March 1922, is shown below.
The complete set of TWE from 1919 to 2014 has now been digitised, thanks to donations received by WES, and can be accessed via the IET Archives web page here – TWE Digitised Version. Benefits of this digitisation include being able to access the journal remotely without individuals having to visit the IET Archives in person, and also the online version is fully searchable by keyword. It can be browsed using page-turning software, and pages can be downloaded and printed for private research (terms for usage given at the bottom of the web page).
The journal contains a wealth of information about women in engineering and also gives insights into social history, employment issues, gender studies, innovation, and may other topics relevant to engineering in the UK since World War I. The early journals also contain technical papers by women engineers.
The first editor of TWE was Dame Caroline Haslett, who eventually became a President of WES, and The Woman Engineer fulfilled the stated aim of WES ‘to enable technical women to meet and to facilitate the exchange of ideas respecting the interests, training and employment of technical women and the publication and communication of information on such subjects.’
Opportunities for Research into Individual Woman Engineers
The pages of The Woman Engineer are full of the names of noteworthy engineers. However, whilst some luminaries mentioned in the journal such as Amy Johnson are still well known today, the large majority of names have been forgotten or are little known amongst the general public. The digitised version of TWE, now available on the web, should allow many more researchers to investigate both those individuals who still retain some profile today and also uncover the stories behind some of those forgotten engineers.
One such ‘forgotten’ individual is Gertrude Entwisle (1892-1961) for whom there is no entry for example in Wikipedia, but whose life story begins to emerge from the pages of TWE. An image of Gertrude is shown below.
Gertrude Lilian Entwisle, AMIEE, Hon. MWES, joined the Women’s Engineering Society in 1919 on its formation and played a major part in its history. Gertrude was a member of the Council of WES from the outset until her retirement and she was President of WES from 1941 to 1943.
When Gertrude retired from Metropolitan-Vickers on 30 June 1954, a biography of her career printed in The Woman Engineer said that her retirement was, “the very first retirement in Great Britain of a woman who had a complete career in industry as an employed professional design engineer”. The biography also told the story of how Gertrude came to work for Metropolitan-Vickers as follows;
“In 1915, the exigencies of the first World War caused Mr J S Peck, the Chief Engineer of British Westinghouse (as Metropolitan-Vickers then was) to write to the College of Technology in Manchester enquiring whether it knew of any lady engineers. After all, his firm had just successfully tried the tremendous experiment of employing an office girl so why should it not try to find some female technical staff? The Chief Engineer was an American and woman engineers already existed in the USA. The letter was handed by the Technical College to the Manchester High School for Girls who forwarded it to Gertrude Entwisle. Now Miss Entwisle had shaken the University of Manchester staff by attending the engineering lectures which were open to second year Physics undergraduates and so she decided to risk the British Westinghouse.”
The full six page biography can be found in the digitised version of TWE (volume 7). The 1954 biography contains several pictures of Gertrude and of motors designed by Gertrude. Another image of Gertrude from the IET Archive collections can be seen below.
There is also a fascinating picture in TWE of Gertrude in 1914 as a member of the second year Honours Physics class at Manchester University which also shows the lecturers including Professor Sir Ernest Rutherford. Gertrude is also an important figure in the history of the IET. In 1916 she became the first woman student member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers and by 1920 she was the first woman Associate Member of the IEE.
Wikithon – Women Engineers in the First World War and After
Another project designed to make the histories of women engineers more visible, through adding material to Wikipedia, is the Wikithon that takes place at the IET’s Savoy Place on Tuesday 11 October. The event which is titled ‘Women Engineers in the First World War and After’, is a one-day collaborative project that will look back at the role of women in engineering and technical disciplines during the First World War and beyond. It will start to bring out some of the stories documented in the newly digitised version of The Women Engineer. The event is a collaborative effort between the University of Leeds, the University of Leicester, the team at the IET Archives, Wikipedia, and many others.
The Women’s Engineering Society Today
The Women’s Engineering Society still exists today as an influential charity and professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development. WES campaigns to encourage women to participate and achieve as engineers, scientists and as leaders; to encourage the education of engineering; and to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. www.wes.org.uk
The WES journal, The Woman Engineer, is also still published, and the latest editions of the journal, which were not part of the digitisation project (issues from 2015 onwards), can be found on the WES website here – WES journal archive.
It is hoped that the digitisation of TWE, the ongoing initiatives of WES, and events such as the Wikithon will help towards bringing the names of many of the remarkable women engineers such as Gertrude Entwisle, who deserve a higher profile, back into the light.