A Woman I Admire Writing Competition Spring 2018
Dame Caroline Haslett 1895-1957
Have you heard of Caroline? No? Well you're not alone. I certainly hadn't, not until I was eighteen and a woman, who died before I was born, changed my life. I owe the scholarly Ms Haslett a debt. It's too late to thank her in person, it's always been too late to thank her in person, but at least I can sing her praises, say what she did for women, for engineers and for me.
I should start with the basics, Caroline Haslett was a Victorian, but only just, by the time she started school Edward had come to the throne and before she started work he was replaced by George. She was the product of the changing times, and her legacy helped to change me.
She was a non-stop-woman; a campaigner, a radical, an organiser, an engineer, a writer and a philanthropist. Yet she is one of the forgotten women of the twentieth century.
She was a suffragette, one of the original Awkward Women. But she wasn't one of the educated, middle-class women we all know. Instead she was one of the working-class women who signed up in their thousands. The women who worked all week and campaigned on Sundays. I have the right to vote, and that's thanks to Caroline and women like her.
But that's a general thank you. The acknowledgement of a gift from a whole generation. Caroline did much more for me. She literally changed my life. Caroline championed women engineers. But she didn't just say women could be engineers, she said we could be great engineers, sit on boards and represent our industries. She said we should be proud to work in industry. So, without realising who had blazed the trail, I followed in her footsteps and became an engineer. It was Caroline Haslett who was first the secretary and later the president of the Women's Engineering Society. I joined this organisation as a student and was sponsored by one of the senior members when I wanted to become a chartered engineer. The reason that there is an organisation that supports and encourages women to become professional engineers is largely down to Caroline. That's something else I am grateful for, there were times when I relied on their support, on her support, though I didn't know it.
But even this isn't the main thing I owe to Dame Caroline. It's her role as a philanthropist that changed my life. As a student, a family crisis meant that I couldn't afford to continue my studies. That's when Caroline came to the rescue. The Caroline Haslett Memorial Trust was there to support me, to support any female engineer in need. Thanks to Caroline I completed my degree, and my post-graduate training and I became a chartered engineer. Thanks to that grant I have been able to support my family, sponsor other engineers and tell the world about a woman who changed the world, and hardly anyone remembers what she achieved.