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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Maude Elsa Gardner: Aeronautical Engineer

Posted August 23, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Maude Elsa Gardner, better known as Elsa Gardner, was an aeronautical engineer who worked with the U.S. Navy through two world wars. She was the first woman to be accepted to aeronautical engineering institutions.

Gardner was born on January 9, 1894 in Brooklyn, New York. When she was six years old she suffered from a joint disease that left one leg shorter than the other; despite multiple operations she was left with a limp. Her family had enough money to send the children, including the daughters, to college. Gardner studied mechanical engineering at St. Lawrence College.

She worked as a bookkeeper and statistician until World War I when she became a gauge examiner at the British Ministry of Munitions of War in New York City. Gardner was eventually transferred to Bliss Company Torpedo Works on behalf of the U.S. Navy. She helped bring production up to standard for all gauges used in torpedoes. Gardner then laid out the course for the torpedo testing range at Sag Harbor. As she worked, Gardner continued studying engineering at the collegiate level at New York University, Pratt Institute, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Trying to find employment during the great depression was difficult, especially for a woman like Gardner. She held a variety of jobs including working for the American Society of the Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in Manhattan. She wrote abstracts and reviewed technical literature that was presented in French and English. Gardner started a card index system to organize all of the aeronautical, mechanical, and automotive engineering subjects.

Gardner's turning point came when she became a review editor at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. She wrote the Technical Data Digest, a 50 page semi-monthly publication that contained article abstracts. The material she wrote was also published in the Journal of Aeronautical Sciences. Her work helped both U.S. military and commercial sectors stay current and in sync.

Gardner's efforts gave her an invitation to join the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences (IAS). She was both the first woman to be accepted and the first to be invited. She would continue her work in organizing and indexing data through World War II. She retired after being diagnosed with cancer and died in February 1963.

Resources:

Dayton Innovation Legacy - Maude Elsa Gardner - Aeronautical engineer through two world wars

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