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Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Mieography


Elisabeth Muriel Gregory ("Elsie") MacGill was born in 1905, the daughter of a prominent Canadian lawyer and his wife, British Columbia's first woman judge. Her mother was a strong suffrage advocate, and influence Elsie's decision to continue her education after high school. Elsie was the first Canadian woman to earn a degree in electrical engineering.

After she graduated, she moved to the United States and took a job with a car company. The company moved into aircraft manufacturing, so Elsie enrolled in the University of Michigan to study aeronautical engineering. In 1928, she became the first woman in North America to earn her Masters degree in that field.
Just before she graduated, she contracted polio, and doctors told her that she would probably spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Not willing to accept that, she learned to walk supporting herself by two metal canes. Writing magazine articles about planes and flying, she furthered her studies for her doctorate, at MIT in Cambridge.
1934 found her back in Canada, working as an assistant engineer at Fairchild Aircraft. She also became the first woman to be elected to corporate membership in the Engineering Institute of Canada. She went on to become the Chief Aeronautical Engineer at the Canada Car and Foundry, where she designed, and tested a new training aircraft, the Maple Leaf Trainer II.
The company was later selected to build Hurricane fighter aircraft for the RAF, and Elsie found herself quite busy, especially because this was war time, and over half the workers in the company were women. She was responsible for streamlining the production line operations, and to craft design solutions that allowed the aircraft to operate during the winter, such as de-icing controls, and a system for fitting ski's for landing on snow. She ended up writing a book on the experience, and someone wrote a comic book about her experiences, styling her as "Queen of the Hurricanes".
After all her hard work, she was dismissed from the CC&F because it turned out she was having an affair with the works manager. They married, and moved to Toronto, setting up an aeronautical consulting business. She also published a biography of her mother, and, inspired by both her mother, and grandmother's work for suffrage, she worked for the movement as well. She died in 1980 in Massachusetts.

3 comments:

sybil law said...

Awesome lady...
My mom had polio as a kid. She learned to rewalk again, too. And you'd never know, except for her lack of any physical grace.

Daryl said...

Awesome .. and as always inspiring .. I guess she wasnt involved in/or related to whoever created McGill Univ.

K said...

I love all the stories of early women engineers. They must have been very strong women.