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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

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.

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Woman of the Week – Elsie MacGill

Posted January 02, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Elsie MacGill, known as “Queen of the Hurricanes” was an aeronautical engineer during World War II and made many strides in the aerospace field. She was the first woman to earn an aeronautical engineering degree – among many other firsts.

Born in Canada, her parents were supportive of learning. They home-schooled all their children in a formal way, modeled after Lord Roberts, a public school that the older boys later attended. Lessons included drawing and swimming lessons, as well as academic work. Later, they attended King George Secondary School, which was affiliated with McGill University. This rigorous education facilitated Elsie entering University of British Columbia when she was only 16. She was admitted to the applied sciences program, but the Dean of the faculty asked her to leave after only one term.

Her mother was appointed Judge of the Juvenile Court of Vancouver when MacGill was 12. After 1911, the racial strife in British Columbia continued to escalate, and her father’s immigration-related legal work was directly impacted. This caused severe financial strain for the family during the war. Her early aptitude for "fixing things" held the family in good stead, and informed discussions of possible careers.

She was admitted to the University of Toronto's Bachelor of Applied Sciences program in 1923. During the summers, she worked in machine shops repairing electric motors to supplement the theory.

During this time, she became exposed to the nascent field of aeronautical engineering. However, sadly she became ill with polio just before graduation. Doctors said she would likely spend her life in a wheelchair, a reality she refused to accept. She powered through the disease and learned to walk by supporting herself with two metal canes.

Following graduation, MacGill took a junior job with a firm in Pontiac, Michigan. There, the company began producing aircrafts, which furthered Elsie's interest in aeronautics. She began part-time graduate studies in aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan, enrolling in the fall of 1927 in the full-time Master of Science in Engineering program to begin aircraft design work and conduct research and development in the University's new aeronautics facilities. In 1929, she became the first woman in North America, and likely the world, to be awarded a master's degree in aeronautical engineering.

MacGill was the first woman to do so many things in her field. In addition to being the first to earn various degrees, she was the first woman elected to corporate membership in the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC). She joined the group within a few years of her first engineering job after school, where she worked at Fairchild Aircraft's operations in Longueuil as an Assistant Aeronautical Engineer.

Later in 1938, MacGill was hired as Chief Aeronautical Engineer at Canadian Car and Foundry (CanCar), becoming the first woman in the world to hold such a position.

At CanCar she designed and tested a new training aircraft, the Maple Leaf Trainer II. The Maple Leaf Trainer was designed and first built in CanCar's Fort William (now Thunder Bay) factories, where MacGill had moved. Although the Maple Leaf II did not enter service with any Commonwealth forces, ten were sold to Mexico, where its high-altitude performance was important given the many airfields from which it had to operate.

Her role in the company shifted when the factory was selected to build the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force (RAF). The factory quickly expanded from about 500 workers to 4,500 by war's end, half of them women.

MacGill was also responsible for designing solutions to allow the aircraft to operate during the winter, introducing de-icing controls and a system for fitting skis for landing on snow.

In 1943, production of this aircraft shut down after producing about 1,400 Hurricanes. It was because of this that she earned her nickname “Queen of the Hurricanes.” She wrote and presented a paper about the experience and was even portrayed in a comic book, as well as numerous media stories.

She later met E. J. (Bill) Soulsby during a time when CanCar was looking for more ways to produce goods, after the Hurricane production had stopped. The company secured with a contract from the U.S. Navy to build Curtiss SB2C Helldivers. This production did not go nearly as smoothly, and a continual stream of minor changes from Curtiss-Wright (demanded by the U.S. Navy) meant that full-scale production took a long time to get started. Soulsby and MacGill were dismissed from the company, and rumors swirled that it was about Soulsby’s behavior with some naval officers, but it was actually because the two were having an affair.

MacGill and Soulsby were married in 1943 and moved to Toronto, where they set up an aeronautical consulting business. In 1946, she became the first woman to serve as Technical Advisor for International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). There, she helped to draft International Air Worthiness regulations for the design and production of commercial aircraft. In 1947, she became the chairman of the United Nations Stress Analysis Committee, the first woman ever to chair a UN committee.

MacGill was a pioneer of the aeronautical world, and the list of “firsts” she accomplished in her life is significant. By overcoming many of life’s obstacles, she was able to prove incredibly successful and innovative.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsie_MacGill

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/elizabeth-muriel-gregory-macgill/

http://canadaonline.about.com/od/canadawomenww2/p/elsiemacgill.htm

http://www.wes.org.uk/content/elsie-macgill

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#1

Re: Woman of the Week – Elsie MacGill

01/03/2017 11:02 PM

I went to the Canadian government archives site and there was barely 1/2 a sentence mention of the comic strip. Also under sources, there was not a citation listed.

I sent a message to them. It says they can respond in 20+ days.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Woman of the Week – Elsie MacGill

01/03/2017 11:29 PM

I just received a message that said, " up to 5 months for complex queries ".

I hope my query wasn't too complex.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Woman of the Week – Elsie MacGill

01/04/2017 4:51 PM

As long as the imaginary part has a very small coefficient the query should appear mostly real and you won't have to wait that long.

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#4

Re: Woman of the Week – Elsie MacGill

01/04/2017 10:24 PM

Received response from Library and Archives /Canada.

Thank you for contacting library and archives Canada regarding the name of the author, the name of the periodical and the publisher of the comic, " Elsie of the Hurricanes ".

I was able to find an online copy of True Comics #8, January 1942 online at the following URL:

HTTP://comicbookkplus.com/?dlid=17045

The story"Queen of the Hurricanes:Elsie MacGill " can be found on pages 17-21 ( I.e. image 19 of 68)

While the author of that particular comic isin't listed, on the inside of the front cover ( image 2 of 68) the president and publisher is listed as George J. Hecht, for The Parents Magazine Press, in New York, NY.

I hope this information has been helpful. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.

Regards,

Megan Butcher

Reference Services

Library and Archives Canada / Government of Canada

bac.reference.lac@canada.ca / Tel: 1-866-578-7777 / TTY: 1-866-299-1699

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Guru

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Woman of the Week – Elsie MacGill

01/04/2017 10:30 PM

HTTP://comicbookkplus.com/?dlid=17045

results in:

but clicking on

http://comicbookplus.com/

takes you to the site's homepage.

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#6

Re: Woman of the Week – Elsie MacGill

01/05/2017 8:16 AM

For others who were looking, here's the comic:

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