Engineer of the Week No.8. Sheila Leather (17 January 1898 -27 January 1983) Today (27 January) we remember Sheila Leather who died 36 years ago today.
Sheila Leather was born in Cheshire in 1898 where her father was an analytical chemist. She went to Liverpool High School for Girls but little is known of what post-school education she had. Before the Second World War she was a Physical Training Lecturer at Hockerill Training College, Hertfordshire, having trained in the revolutionary Bergman-Osterberg method of exercise for women, almost certainly at Madame Bergman-Osterberg’s Dartford College.
She was an amateur engineer in her own time and in 1940 she was one of the first women trainees on the courses run by the Women’s Engineering Society at the Beaufoy Institute in London to prepare women for engineering war work. She showed such aptitude at the aircraft factory where she was sent that she was promoted from the shopfloor to more responsible posts in production planning and in 1943 was recruited by the Ministry of Labour to be one of its Women Technical Officers advising on the employment of women in heavy industry. She joined the Society in 1944 and soon made friends, as she and Verena Holmes set up a small engineering company (Holmes & Leather Ltd, in Gillingham) in 1946 employing only women to make small paper-cutting guillotines.
In 1950-51 she became president of WES and undertook some broadcasting as well as visiting schools to encourage girls to do engineering, and working with other women’s organisations to campaign for equal pay. In retirement she enjoyed acting as a volunteer guide in Lincoln Cathedral