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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

Woman of the Week – Amber Peebles

Posted October 02, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Amber Peebles is President of the woman- and veteran-owned Athena Construction company, based in Virginia.

She graduated from Park University with a B.S. in Human Resource Management, holds a Masters certification in Paralegal Studies from The George Washington University, and a Project Management certification from Villanova University. She’s also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. She spent time as a Platoon Commander at Parris Island, an assistant Operations Officer with 3rd FSSG, and other billets with the 1st Marine Air Wing and Officer Candidate School.

Source: Linkedin

She joined fellow Marine Melissa Schneider when she opened Athena Construction company. Both women brought significant construction experience to the table, as well as project management skills and sales experience. The company is a general contractor focusing on interior renovations with self-perform in-house subcontracting for doors frames and hardware installation.

Before joining Athena, she worked at Blank Rome LLP, where she was responsible for human resources, security, facilities management, capital improvement projects, and the day-to-day operation of a 200-person office.

Currently, her customer base is mostly government contracts. In an interview with, she noted that having a strong employee base of veterans makes this a good thing for both parties. She also often takes a military-style approach to her work.

“For us, we like hiring veterans because we have common experiences and “speak the same language.” Our job offers aren’t necessarily predicated exclusively on someone’s veteran status, but it does give us insight as to the individual’s approach to accomplishing tasks,” she said.

She’s spoken on being a woman in a male-dominated industry many times, with some particularly good insight in an interview with Construction DIVE.

“It’s not a particularly attractive industry if you don’t know a lot about it. Everybody thinks of construction as dirty — and it is — dangerous — and it is. A lot of times, you have to move. You have to go where the work is, and that’s not necessarily ideal for a lot of folks. Women have to make choices. Sometimes they have to choose between career and family, so it may not be the most attractive career. I think for the women who are in it for a career and are good at it, they really enjoy it,” she told the website. “Construction is also an incredibly risky business. Women, by their nature, typically are geared toward mitigating risk. They’re risk-averse. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing or a good thing. But construction is a really risky business.”

She noted that in order to change the face of male dominated industry, the current leaders must engage with the potential leaders of tomorrow. Mentoring is a helpful tool that we all should do more of, she said.

1 comments; last comment on 10/03/2017
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Woman of the Week – Bessie Coleman

Posted September 18, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Bessie Coleman was the first African American woman to stage a public flight in America and first to hold a pilot’s license.

Born to a family of sharecroppers in Texas, she went into the cotton fields at a young age but also studied in a small segregated school and went on to attend one term of college at Langston University. She couldn’t afford any more schooling, so she went to live with her brother in Chicago. Then, Chicago was hit with one of the worst racial riots in history. Her family was not involved or harmed, but it left a certain vibe within the city.

She had developed an early interest in flying, but there were no opportunities for a young woman of color. She decided now was the time to follow her dream and escape the violence in Chicago. So, she saved up money to go to France to become a licensed pilot.

She learned to fly in a Nieuport 82 biplane with "a steering system that consisted of a vertical stick the thickness of a baseball bat in front of the pilot and a rudder bar under the pilot's feet."

On June 15, 1921, Coleman earned an aviation pilot’s license and an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Determined to polish her skills, Coleman spent the next two months taking lessons from a French pilot and in September 1921 she sailed for New York. She became somewhat famous upon her return to the U.S.

As well as fame, Coleman was also criticized by the press for her opportunistic nature and the flamboyant style she brought to her exhibition flying. However, she also quickly gained a reputation as a skilled and daring pilot who would stop at nothing to complete a difficult stunt.

In 1923 Coleman purchased a small plane but crashed on the way to her first scheduled West Coast air show. The plane was destroyed and Coleman suffered injuries that hospitalized her for three months.

She was on a speaking tour in Florida when she met the Rev. Hezakiah Hill and his wife Viola, community activists who invited her to stay with them at the parsonage of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Washington Street in the neighborhood of Paramore. The couple took her in, like a daughter, and encouraged her to work in a beauty shop to earn money for another plane.

Her flights, personalities, and fame gave her enough pull to save for yet another plane. She also had a lifelong dream of eventually opening an aviation school.

Tragically, however, she was never able to see this happen. On an exhibition flight in 1926, she took flight with her mechanic and publicist William D. Willis. The plane – a Curtiss JN-4 (Jenny) – had been flown to Florida from Texas by Willis and needed to make three emergency landings along the way. Upon hearing this, family and friends discouraged the flight. She went regardless. They took flight and she didn’t have her safety belt on, as she had planned a parachute jump for after the flight and wanted to be able to move about and see the terrain. The plane took an unexpected dive and she was thrown from the plane and was killed instantly. Willis attempted to regain control of the plane, but it fell to the ground and he too died upon impact. The wreckage was badly burned, but it was later discovered that a wrench used to fix the engine had jammed the controls.

3 comments; last comment on 09/22/2017
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Woman of the Week – Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Posted September 11, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Rebecca Lee Crumpler is best known for being the first African-American woman physician in the United States.

She was born in Delaware in 1831, but grew up in Pennsylvania. She spent a lot of time with her aunt, who cared for the ill, while she was growing up. Crumpler later attended the elite West Newton English and Classical School in Massachusetts where she was a "special student in mathematics."

She worked as a nurse in Charlestown, Massachusetts until she was accepted to the New England Female Medical College in 1861. Very rarely were women or black men let into the school. In the U.S. at that time, there were more than 50,000 physicians, 300 of which were women – none of those were women of color, however.

She won a tuition award from the Wade Scholarship Fund, which was established by the Ohio abolitionist, Benjamin Wade. She became the first African-American woman to be named a doctor of Medicine in 1864. She was also the only African-American woman to earn a full degree from the college, as it later closed and eventually merged with Boston University.

She opened a medical practice in Boston after graduation and stayed there until the end of the Civil War. Then, she and her husband moved to Richmond, Virginia where she recalled that she began “the proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children.”

Crumpler worked under General Orlando Brown, the Assistant Commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau for the State of Virginia. This federal agency charged with helping more than 4,000,000 slaves make the stunning transition from bondage to freedom. In Richmond, she was faced with racism, mistreatment, sexism, and general unwanted behavior, all of which she ignored, in order to treat as she later wrote, “a very large number of the indigent, and others of different classes, in a population of over 30,000 colored.”

She then returned to practice in Boston for a short time, and then eventually settled in Hyde Park, New York. Moving to New York could be considered her retirement, though in this time she wrote a notable book, “A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts,” which was published by Cashman, Keating and Co., of Boston, in 1883. The book focused on the medical care of women and children, the kind of care that sparked her interest in medicine.

4 comments; last comment on 09/14/2017
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Woman of the Week – Mary Anderson

Posted August 21, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

We can thank Mary Anderson when we drive in the rain or snow. She’s the inventor of the automatic windshield wiper.

During a visit to New York City in 1902, she was riding the trolley when she noticed the driver had both windows open to keep them clear of the falling snow. She thought that there must be a simpler way to keep the snow and ice away without having the windows open in the winter.

She went home to Alabama and hired a designer for a hand-operated device to keep a windshield clear. After producing a prototype, she applied for and was granted a 17-year patent in 1903. The device was a lever that was inside the vehicle and controlled a rubber blade outside. The spring-loaded arm moved back and forth across a windshield and a counterweight ensured the wiper blade stayed in contact with the window. Similar attempts at this were made earlier, but Anderson’s was the first to actually work.


The patent application describes how the wiper was to be operated by a handle inside the vestibule of the vehicle, and be easily removable, "thus leaving nothing to mar the usual appearance of the car during fair weather," according to patent language.

In 1905, she tried to sell the rights to her invention, but it was rejected. When her patent expired in 1920, wipers using her design became part of the standard on many cars to be produced. But she was never directly given credit for the idea.

A letter from the firm of Dinning and Eckenstein is kept safe by her great-great-niece, Rev. Sara-Scott Wingo, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. Wingo was interviewed by NPR about her relative in July.

"Dear madam," the letter begins," We beg to acknowledge receipt of your recent favor with reference to the sale of your patent. In reply, we regret to state we do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking its sale."

Wingo suspects her invention wasn’t taken seriously because Anderson was a completely independent woman.

"She didn't have a father; she didn't have a husband and she didn't have a son," Wingo told NPR. "And the world was kind of run by men back then."

She did finally earn some recognition for her idea, only a few years ago though. In 2011, she was inducted into the inventors Hall of Fame.

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Woman of the Week – Mary Eliza Mahoney

Posted August 07, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first African American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States, graduating in 1879. Mahoney was one of the first African Americans to graduate from a nursing school. She challenged the discrimination she faced while learning and practicing in a predominantly white society.

She was born in 1845 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Mahoney's parents were freed slaves, originally from North Carolina, who moved north before the Civil War.

From a young age, she knew she wanted to be a nurse. She worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children (now the Dimock Community Health Center) for 15 years before being accepted into its nursing school, the first in the United States. She was 33 years old when she was admitted in 1878.

The work was rigorous. She was required to spend at least a year in the hospital’s various wards to gain universal knowledge, as well as attend lectures and observe doctors in the field.

After completing these requirements, Mahoney graduated in 1879 as a registered nurse — the first black woman to do so in the United States.

After gaining her nursing diploma, Mahoney worked for many years as a private care nurse, earning a distinguished reputation. She worked for predominantly white, wealthy families. She quickly earned a reputation for being professional, courteous and skilled. Word of her excellent work spread and she was quickly in high demand.

She worked for many families and hoped that by meeting many, she could spread the message against discrimination and eventually make equality more accepted.

In 1908, Mahoney co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) with Adah B. Thoms. This organization attempted to uplift the standards and everyday lives of African-American registered nurses. The NACGN had a significant influence on eliminating racial discrimination in the registered nursing profession. In 1951, the NACGN merged with the American Nurses Association.

From 1911 to 1912, Mahoney served as director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for black children in Kings Park, Long Island. The Howard Orphan Asylum served as a home for freed colored children and the colored elderly. This institution was run by African Americans. Here, Mary Eliza Mahoney finished her career, helping people and using her knowledge however she knew best.

In retirement, Mahoney was still concerned with women's equality and remained a strong supporter of women's suffrage. She actively participated in the advancement of civil rights in the United States. In 1920, when women were granted the right to vote, Mahoney was among the first women in Boston to register to vote.


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