Here’s a happy story for a change: During the Civil War Emily went to visit her brother then commanding the 5th Army Corps at his headquarters and fell madly in love with Washington Roebling, the son of John A. Roebling who designed the as yet to be built Brooklyn Bridge. Washington obviously felt the same way when writing to his sister about Emily he said, “Some people’s beauty lies not in the features, but in the varied expression that the countenance will assume under the various emotions. She is…a most entertaining talker, which is a mighty good thing you know, I myself being so stupid.” (ASCE)
They got married after a whirlwind romance, traveled to Europe to study bridges, had a baby and came home only to find that John A. had died of tetanus leaving Washington to complete the construction of the bridge!
Luckily Emily had studied right along side of her husband because soon enough he developed a horrible case of the bends (caisson disease) and became bedridden. Now Washington didn’t want to lose his position so the task of carrying out Washington’s duties as chief engineer fell upon Emily. She saw to it that the bridge got done, gaining a first-rate, hands-on education in the process and some even wondered if she’d been secretly responsible for the bridge’s design (all of this being rather scandalous).
“At the opening ceremony, Emily was honored in a speech by Abram Stevens Hewitt who said that the bridge was
…an everlasting monument to the sacrificing devotion of a woman and of her capacity for that higher education from which she has been too long disbarred.” (Wiki)
Now isn’t that nice?
2 responses to “And You Thought Women Couldn’t Build Bridges: Emily Warren Roebling”
Very, very nice.