Welcome to our new series of blogs where we will be delving into our historical membership proposal forms to learn more about some of our past members.

Our historical membership proposal forms consist of the application forms completed by individuals when they applied to a class of IMechE membership.  We often hold more than one form for each individual as they moved between membership grades at different points of their careers.

They include details of an individual’s general and technical education, apprenticeship and employment history up to the date that the application was made. They provide a snippet into an engineer’s career and professional connections and indicate how engineering companies worked and were connected.

This series will be using information from these forms to discover and highlight stories of engineers.

Application forms for individuals who joined the Institution between 1847 and 1938 are available to be viewed via the family history website Ancestry. IMechE Members can access them free of charge. Information about access can be found here:

Joan Shawe

To mark International Women in Engineering Day 2020 we have chosen to launch this series with who we believe may have been the IMechE’s first woman Council Member; Dora Joan Shawe (known as Joan).

Joan Shawe joined the Institution as a Student member in 1948. In this blog we will share details of her career taken from her applications to become a student, graduate and Associate Member as well as from the IMechE Council Minutes.

Extract from Joan Shawe’s application to become a Student Member.

Application as a Student

At the time of her student application Joan was working as an Assistant Research Engineer for CAV Ltd in Acton.

Prior to making her application Joan had attended Newnham College, Cambridge where she had completed a degree course in the Mechanical Sciences. When Joan completed her degree course, women at Cambridge University were not yet permitted to receive their degree at a ceremony.

Before taking her degree Joan had undertaken seven months of evening classes on a Motor Mechanics Course and had gained practical experience at British Electric and the Brush Electrical Engineering Company Ltd.

Transfer to Graduate Member

In 1950 Joan applied to transfer to the class of Graduate Member. Her membership application provided more information about her role as an Assistant Research Engineer stating that she was investigating the delivery of fuel from injection nozzles and pumps and was also working on a diesel research engine.

Transfer to Associate Member

In 1957 Joan applied to become an Associate Member of the Institution – the membership grade that would enrol her as a Chartered Engineer. Joan was now working as a Development Engineer in the Mechanical Engineering Department of GEC Applied Electronics.

Since her graduate application Joan had undertaken further study and gained an MSc in Mathematics at the Chelsea Polytechnic which later merged to become part of King’s College London.

At GEC Joan worked on guided weapons specifically looking at the initiation and development of hydraulic servo components.

Extract from Joan Shawe’s application to become an Associate Member

Involvement with IMechE

From 1973 Joan is listed in the IMechE Council Minutes as a member of the IMechE Qualifications and Education Committees. In 1974 Joan became the IMechE representative on the Council of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and in 1976 having achieved the membership class of Fellow Joan became an Ordinary Member on the IMechE Council.  Our records suggest that she was the first woman to sit on the IMechE Council.

Extract from the 1975 IMechE Council Minutes
Extract from the 1976 IMechE Council Members confirming Joan Shawe as an Ordinary Member of Council

More information

We would be interested in finding out more about Joan, especially if there are any records or images that highlight her engineering achievements. Please get in touch with us at:

Archives, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

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