Today for National Women in Engineering day, we celebrate the life of automobile engineer Dorothée Pullinger.
Born in St Aubin-sur-Scie, France in 1894, Dorothée moved to England at the age of 8. At 16, She started work as a junior in the drawing office of Arrol-Johnston, in Paisley, Scotland where her father also worked as an engineer. By the time that WW1 broke out, Pullinger was 20 years old, and she was selected to be Lady Superintendent of the female war works at the Vickers factory in Barrow. She was in charge of 7,000 female workers making high explosive shells.
She first attempted to gain membership to the Institution of Automobile Engineers (who merged with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1947) in 1914, but was refused on the grounds that she was a woman. However, she was successful in 1920, and was their first female member. It was in this year also that Pullinger was awarded an MBE for her War work. She was also a founding member of the Women’s Engineering Society.
After the war, Dorothée worked managing production at the Galloway Motor Car Company. The staff at the Arrol-Johnston plant were mostly women, and Dorothée helped to set up a successful apprenticeship scheme for women there. The Galloway car was a light weight and marketed at women. Dorothée was also an accomplished car racer, and won the Scottish Six Day Trials in 1924 with the Galloway car.
In the late 1920s, Pullinger moved to Croydon and set up a steam laundry service with her husband, with state of the art technology from America. During World War II, she was the only woman on the Industrial panel at the Ministry of Production and she worked advising the Nuffield group on women’s employment during wartime.
In later life, she moved to Guernsey and set up another steam laundry service. She died in 1986.
National Women in Engineering day was set up by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to celebrate the 95th anniversary of WES. It’s a day dedicated to raising the profile and celebrating the achievements of women in engineering. You can find out more here on the WES website http://www.wes.org.uk/nwed