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UWS academics, in collaboration with colleagues from the Women’s Engineering Society, are set to make a key contribution to a UK conference exploring women’s experiences during the Great War, which runs from 13th to 14th April 2018 at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley. 

The conference, Voices of Women in the Great War and its Aftermath, is organised by the Women’s History Network in Midlands and will see UWS academics playing a key role in the delivery of a conference panel entitled: ‘The Emerging Voice of the Woman Engineer in WW1 and Post War Periods’.

The panel will examine some outstanding women engineers of the period who emerged from the war to become leaders in the movement to allow women to be professional engineers. The panel will be chaired by Dr Sarah Peers, Deputy President of the Women's Engineering Society. The panellists include Professor Katherine Kirk and Professor Katarzyna Kosmala both of UWS, engineering historian Dr Nina Baker, author and biographer Henrietta Heald, and Anne Locker, Library and Archives manager at the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Professor Katarzyna Kosmala said: “Many women gained technical and professional engineering skills in WW1, some rising to positions of considerable responsibility, yet their contribution continues largely invisible.

"We are delighted that our multidisciplinary research collaboration with the Women’s Engineering Society will see the delivery of this timely conference panel.”
Professor Katarzyna Kosmala

The Women's Engineering Society was founded in 1919 by a group of women who had enjoyed engineering careers during the First World War but then been forcibly ousted by the Restoration of Pre-war Practices Act which required employers to make redundant all women taken on for war work. Supported by leading industrialists, such as Sir Charles Parsons and his family, the Society was established in order to campaign for women's right to work in engineering on an equal basis, to celebrate the work of women engineers, and to support the careers of those who were able to find such work. These remains its principle roles today.

Amongst its founding members was Dorothee Pullinger, a pioneering woman in engineering in Scotland, who had her initial engineering training at the Arrol Johnston car works in Paisley. She went to work for Vickers munitions plant in Barrow-in-Furness in WW1 and returned to design a car for women after the war, at Arrol Johnston's new factories in Dumfries and Kirkcudbright. Her life story and fascinating career is the basis of UWS led collaborative research initiative ‘A Car For Women and Other Stories’. Professor Kirk and Professor Kosmala are the lead researchers of this project.

This conference seeks to explore the multiplicity of women's voices during the war and in the years that followed. It will look at the mundane and the extraordinary, the domestic and working worlds, the political and private, in order to critically examine elements of continuity and change and to consider what was to become the legacy of the Great War for women.