The short days, cold grey weather and long nights over the Christmas period should have been the perfect backdrop to snuggle up on the couch and lose myself in some books, however family holidays and itchy feet got the better of me, so by the time I went back to work I was only 25 pages into my Christmas book. It was a present from Peter, and a bit of a cracker – Ada Lovelace: Bride of Science, a so far enthralling read that covers the doomed match of Ada’s parents Lord Byron and Annabella, her early childhood, through to her work with Charles Babbage and beyond. Ada personifies the age in which she lives and in the words of another review, “The Bride of Science is a wonderful portrait of struggle between reason and passion”.
To help me get through the rest of winter without wasting too many hours in front of the television (thankfully Strictly Come Dancing is no longer showing) I put together a shortlist of women in engineering books I plan to get through this year. This is not all I plan to get through, but with work trips starting to pile up and the number of friends visiting starting to increase it seems like a good place to start. Let us know if you’ve read any of the books I mention, or if you have any other suggestions. I hope you find something in here to inspire, to aspire to or just entertain.
The first suspect is Women in Engineering: Pioneers and Trailblazers by Margaret E. Layne. This is an anthology of essays, articles, reports and lectures that introduces the reader to the pioneers and trailblazers that paved the way for todays female engineers. Female contributions to construction management, industrial efficiency and environment protection are placed in their original historical context, and from a personal point of view given this was the priciest of the bunch I am hoping this will put my own daily struggles as a female engineer into perspective and inspire me in directions I’d not considered before.
Next on the list is Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt W. Beyer. The author promises to reveal a more authentic Hopper, “a vibrant and complex woman whose career paralleled the meteoric trajectory of the postwar computer industry”. An Admiral in the United States Navy, Grace was a computer scientist who popularised the term “debugging” and invented the first compiler for a programming language. This is all that I know about her, and with the cover having a bit of a Hedy Lamar vibe about it I don’t think I will ruin her story and contribution to the modern world by consulting Wikipedia…
I’m more than a little passionate about the mining industry, in fact so much so that I ended up in a slightly heated argument with my boyfriends granddad at Christmas… Not my finest moment, but we both felt strongly about the closure of the UK’s last underground coal mines, thereby ending an industry that underpinned the local economy and communities for many years. It plays a defining role in British history, and the decline of coal mining is still a sore point for many of the older generation. Pit Lasses: Women and Girls in Coalmining c. 1800-1914 by Denise Bates explores life as a female miner from 1800, through their banning from work underground in 1841 to the outbreak of the First World War. The attitude that women don’t belong underground is still very prevalent in Australian underground mines, both coal and metalifferous, so I am curious to learn about the role women have played in mining and how these views came to be. Is it really man’s work?
The final item of my order was Be That Engineer: Inspiration and Insight from Accomplished Women Engineers: Submissions from members of the Society of Women Engineers’ Corporate Partnership Council (CPC). The digital preview looks promising, categorising advice from the top women engineers in their fields, covering being a leader in a male-dominated workplace, taking risks and learning from mistakes, and embracing your more feminine, creative side to be creative to create change and establishing and evolving your own brand. Each engineeress gets her own page, ensuring bite-sized digestible advice and a book that can be picked up and put back down and picked back up whenever inspiration or encouragement is required. Hopefully everything we need to become a leader through influence.
So what to read once this Amazon order is finished? Given my interest in travel, geology and engineering, Adventures in the Anthropocene:A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made looks promising. Welcome to the Age of Man, or should we say Woman?
What are you currently reading?