Engineer Your Life (The Blog)

Another EYL kind of gal that we thought you might be interested in learning about. 

Let us tell you a story.

Emily Warren Roebling. Lived in the mid 19th century. Rule breaker. Tireless champion for women and their education. Engineer. 
Didn’t listen much to the “nos” and the “women can’t do that” she often heard. An embodiment of the Engineer Your Life mission.

Emily had an older brother, Gouverneur, that she was very close with; he was a civil engineer. Little Emily looked up to Gouverner (who was 13 years older than she was) and paid attention to what he did and how he did it.

Eventually, Emily got married. Her husband, Washington, was the engineer who became primarily responsible for the construction of The Brooklyn Bridge. 
When Washington became sick and could not carry out his work on the bridge, Emily stepped in. History tells us she was the liaison between her husband and the job site. 
As time went on she became less of a liaison and more of a leader. For over a decade, Emily was in charge. Most agree she was effectively the head engineer on the project.

In 1882, just one year before the bridge was scheduled to be completed, officials tried to fire the team of Emily and her husband due to his illness. 
In another first for women, Emily traveled to Washington DC and stood before a group of influential politicians and engineers, stating her case as to why they should remain on the project. She won her argument.

In 1883, The Brooklyn Bridge, arguably one of the most famous public construction projects on the planet, was completed. 
At the bridge’s dedication, Abram Stevens Hewitt, fellow engineer (and Roebling competitor) said:

"The name Emily Warren Roebling will…be inseparably associated with all that is admirable in human nature and all that is wonderful in the constructive world of art"

The Brooklyn Bridge has been registered as a National Historic Landmark and remains a symbol of American optimism and the power of technology and engineering. 
And Emily Roebling has a permanent and prominent place in the history of the engineering field.

It's all largely thanks to the spirit and perseverance of a little girl who loved engineering. We are pretty sure when Emily was watching her brother and thinking about her future, 
she wasn’t thinking why she couldn’t do that but when. We know EYL girls think the same way. 

Contact RPI to learn more about their Emily Roebling scholarship. It’s a good one. 

Bye for now.

Oh, a last fun fact from Wikipedia we couldn’t resist:

A year after it was opened, people questioned the bridge’s stability, and a potential backlash was brewing. PT Barnum, the consummate self-promoter, confirmed the bridge’s stability when his most famous elephant, 
Jumbo, led a parade of 21 elephants over the bridge.  Speaking of Jumbo, check out Tufts University’s engineering program…!





Kathleen Costello
06/10/2010 09:50

I grew up right next to the Brooklyn Bridge and always thought men were behind this enormous project. I will be sharing Emily Roebling's story with my GEMS (Girls into Engineering, Math Science) Club students. Thanks:-)

06/11/2010 06:34

Glad to hear it Kathleen! Be sure and let us know how the class responds when they found out one of the greatest feats of engineering in the history of the world was supervised by a girl.

Also, there are some great resources on your site that will help with your lesson.

They are at:



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