Engineer of the Week No.98: Alice Jacqueline Perry BSc (Mrs Shaw) (24 October 1885-1 August 1969)
On her 134th birthday we remember Alice Perry, the first woman in Europe to get a degree in engineering.
In 1906 Alice Perry was the first woman In Europe to gain an engineering degree, the next women engineering graduates were not until 1912 (Nina Graham in England and Elisa Leonida-Zamfirescu in Romania).
Alice was surrounded by the inspiring work of her father, a surveyor who founded a electric light company, and her uncle who invented the Perry navigational gyroscope, but it was her own outstanding talent for maths that propelled her towards her engineering degree from the Royal University, Galway. When her father sadly died just after her graduation she temporarily took on his role as County Surveyor for Galway but was not appointed to the permanent post. The work, for which she had assisted her father during her university vacations, entailed extensive travel from Clifden to Gort, inspecting roads and buildings. To this day, no other woman has ever been a County Surveyor in Ireland. From 1908-1920 she was a Lady Inspector for HM Factory Inspectorate, in London and Glasgow. She married Robert Shaw in 1916, but he was killed on the Western Front the following year.
In 1921, as Mrs Shaw, she was promoted to Woman Deputy Superintendent Inspector in the Factory Inspectorate, but she retired from that work in the same year. She spent the rest of her career working for the Christian Science movement in Boston, writing poetry for the Christian Science Monitor and editing poetry for Christian Science journals.
Today, Alice Perry is the inspiration behind the the Alice Perry Engineering Building at the National University of Ireland Galway.