Helen Monica Maurice(Mrs Jackson) OBE (30 June 1908 – 20 September 1995)
On her 111th birthday we remember Monica Maurice, lighting engineer.
If Florence Nightingale was known as the “Lady with the lamp” to the soldiers of the Crimean war, Monica Maurice was well-known in Yorkshire as the “Lady of the lamp” to that county’s coal miners.
Helen Monica Maurice was born in the industrial Midlands of England in 1908. Her father William Maurice’s Wolf Safety Lamp Company made safety lamps for mining and quarrying, having bought the rights to a German design. She had an excellent education, first at Bedales school where she was head girl, and then at the Sorbonne and Hamburg universities, followed by commercial training. She emerged with excellent language and secretarial skills which she put to use assisting her father. Although she was not initially trained as an engineer, it soon became apparent that she was acquiring a technical appreciation of the company’s work and was sent for about a year’s training at Friemann and Wolf factory, from which her father’s firm had the UK rights. She trained in the drawing office, laboratory, machine shops and foundry as well as visiting other industrial sites in Germany at a time when the Nazis were coming to power.
On her return home she became a director in the family firm and began what would be a 30 year career rising to become managing director of Wolf Lamps. She attended technical conference, published papers and was only the second woman to be elected as a Companion of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. In 1938 became the first and, until 1978 the only, female member of the Association of Mining Electrical Engineers. In 1938 she also married, to a doctor -Dr. Arthur Newton Jackson, with whom she had 3 children. Always known for her sophisticated dress style, her unusual red wedding outfit is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
In the pre-war years she continued to visit industrial contacts in Germany and played an active role in trying to set up an international standard of lighting for mines. The Second World War of course intervened and, with mining becoming an even more essential industry, she was appointed to the British Standards Committees for mine lamps and personal safety wear. At the end of the war, she was part of one of the technical intelligence groups (with the nominal rank of a Lieutenant Colonel) sent into Germany to inspect what was left of its industry and assess it for reconstruction.
Monica was an active member of the Women’s Engineering Society and contributed articles on lighting to its journal. As well as her delight in high fashion she was also a lover of fast cars and flying, gaining her pilot’s licence in 1935 and flying from the York Aviation Flying Club. She would often race her Frazer-Nash car at the Donnington circuit, and was friends with other pioneering female pilots of the period, such as Amy Johnson whom she successfully proposed for President of the Women’s Engineering Society.