One of the oldest and most famous suspension bridges in the United States is the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans over New York’s East River and connects Brooklyn to Manhattan. The driving force behind the construction of this iconic landmark is a trailblazing female engineer named Emily Warren Roebling. Emily was born on September 23, 1843 in Cold Spring, New York to an upper middle-class family. She was the second youngest of twelve children, but was especially close to her older brother, Kemble Warren, who enrolled her in a convent school in Washington, D.C. to further her education when she was 15 years old.
Emily met her husband, Washington Roebling, at an army camp in 1864 and they were married a year later. Her father-in-law, John A. Roebling, was the principal designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, but he passed away from tetanus before the project could be finished, leaving his son Washington to take over the role of chief engineer. During construction of the bridge, Washington became ill with decompression sickness and was unable to physically continue working on the project. As a result, Emily assumed much of the responsibilities of the project and acted as a liaison between her husband and the engineering team. She regularly went to the site to relay her husband’s directions to the workers and to answer their questions. In addition, she began to learn about the technical aspects of bridge design by studying subjects like strength of materials, stress analysis, and cable construction. She acquired extensive knowledge about bridge engineering and became so proficient in managing the duties of the project that many people suspected she was the real brains behind the construction of the bridge. She also served as a spokeswoman for her husband and represented him at important social functions. Emily’s persistence and dedication to the project made the completion of the bridge possible, despite her husband’s failing health.
Emily’s contributions to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge were recognized by Congressman Abram S. Hewitt when the bridge officially opened in 1883. As commendation for her efforts, she was given the honor of being the first person to cross the bridge after its opening. She also took great care to make sure that her husband would retain his position as chief engineer. When his title was jeopardized due to his illness, Emily met frequently with politicians and officials and convinced them to let her husband remain chief engineer of the project. After the completion of the bridge, Emily and her husband moved to Trenton, New Jersey, where she oversaw the construction of the Roebling family mansion. Although she is mainly known for her work on the Brooklyn Bridge, Emily attained may more accomplishments throughout her life. She played an active role in various social and philanthropic organizations, such as the Huguenot Society and Daughters of the American Revolution. She also continued her education in her later years and went on to obtain a degree in business law from New York University. She travelled extensively and remained socially and academically active until her death in February 1903.
Emily Warren Roebling was a remarkable individual whose dedication and tireless efforts made the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge a reality. At a time when women were expected to simply manage the affairs of the household, she proved that regardless of gender, one can accomplish anything with hard work and determination. She served as a shining example of the capabilities and brilliance of women. I selected Emily Roebling for these reasons, and because she made significant contributions in a male dominated field. I was inspired by the amount of work and effort she put into the Brooklyn Bridge project. Emily went to great lengths to acquire as much knowledge as she could about bridge design and construction, and without her efforts and active involvement, the completion of the bridge may not have been possible. She will stand throughout time as a role model for young women who want to pursue the engineering field.
Emily left behind an influential legacy through her work and accomplishments. She paved the way for future female engineers to follow her example and apply their knowledge and skills towards achieving their goals. Her achievements have inspired me to continue learning and acquire more knowledge to grow as an engineering student. She has also inspired me to remain dedicated to my career goals despite any obstacle and aspire to achieve something great just as she did.