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Science Museum Group

Electrifying Women: Understanding the Long History of Women in Engineering

This project used archival evidence to increase public knowledge of women’s contribution to engineering.

Aim

The goal was to promote greater public awareness of women’s often underestimated past involvement in engineering, drawing on themes from Graeme Gooday’s Domesticating Electricity (2008/2018) and using archival evidence from the UK’s Women’s Engineering Society (WES).

Context

Funded by an Arts & Humanities Research Council grant for impact and engagement, this project was led by the University of Leeds in collaboration with the Science Museum, running from June 2019 to May 2020.

Our launch event at the Science Museum in June 2019 commemorated the centenary of WES’s launch on June 23rd 1919, a date now marked as International Women in Engineering Day.

Outcomes

The project team led a range of events around the UK during the project: public lectures, creative writing workshops, student discussion sessions and wikithons, most of which are recorded on our website as presentations from project events.

Further useful resources there for teachers and outreach/engagement workers include blog posts; a Creative Writing Pack; a range of Educational Sourcepacks; a Volunteering Pack; Further Reading and Useful Links.

This set of resources was produced in collaboration with additional project partners: The Institution of Engineering and Technology Archives (which holds the WES papers), Wikimedia (which promoted our wikithons) and Heritage Open Days (which promoted our Creative Writing workshops etc).

A dedicated online resource about women in engineering on the Science Museum website was launched in June 2020, as part of a wider web resource on women in science, supported by the Electrifying Women project.

In July 2020, the project shared its public engagement techniques at the British Society for History of Science’s online Global Digital Festival. The third Electrifying Women session at the Festival, aimed at diversifying the stories of women in engineering, prompted the project to launch a dedicated resource page on international issues.

Further collaborations are being planned for a globally inclusive successor project centred upon the series of International Conference of Women in Engineering and Science that commenced in 1964, and the organisation now responsible for running those regular meetings—the International Network of Women in Engineering and Science founded in 2001 and based in Canada.

Project team

  • PrincipaI Investigator – Prof Graeme Gooday (University of Leeds)
  • Co-Investigator – Dr Elizabeth Bruton (Science Museum Group)
  • Research & Engagement Assistant – Dr Emily Rees (University of Leeds)

Project partners

  • Engineering and Technology Archives
  • Wikimedia
  • Heritage Open Days

Arts and Humanities Research Council