WES was founded on 23 June 1919 by a small committee drawn from the National Council of Women, which was created during the 1914-18 war to get women into work to release men for the armed forces. This group of influential women had government backing to support women engineers who, although welcomed into the profession during World War 1, were under pressure at the end of the war to leave the workforce to release jobs for men returning from the forces. These women founded WES, not only to resist this pressure, but also to promote engineering as a rewarding job for women as well as men.
Founding members included wives of eminent engineers for example Lady Parsons, wife of Sir Charles. Famous members since then have included Amy Johnson, Dame Caroline Haslett, and Professor Daphne Jackson. View WES Presidents dating back to 1919.
In that first year the Society's Journal The Woman Engineer was published, appearing regularly ever since. In 1923 the first annual conference was held and has been held ever since - cancelled only twice, during the Second World War. View history of conferences and AGMs.
Amy Johnson appears in this photograph (courtesy of the Wolf Safety Lamp Company Sheffield: Maurice-Jackson archive) of a visit of WES members to the Wolf Safety Lamp factory in 1936. Amy Mollinson (nee Amy Johnson, the aviator) is
standing between Monica and William Maurice, front row right of centre.
WES History Now and Then (Powerpoint show 669 KB)
We have a tradition of making a difference. Our ‘spin out’ programmes led or stimulated by our pioneering members include:
- 1919 WES Formed
- 1924 Electrical Association for Women (EAW)
- 1942 Amy Johnson Memorial Fund
- 1955 British Women Pilots Association
- 1969 Women in Engineering Year (WES 50th anniversary)
- 1969 Verena Holmes Trust and Lecture Series
- 1984 WISE Set up (Women in Science and Engineering)
- 1985 Daphne Jackson Trust Returners Fellowships Pilot
- 1991 Lady Finniston Awards
- 1991 ICWES 9 in UK
- 1998 Karen Burt Award
- 2000 WES Prize Established for Young Woman Engineer
- 2001 INWES founded with WES as founder members
- 2002 MentorSET mentoring scheme
- 2006 Doris Gray Award
- 2014 National Women in Engineering Day
- 2017 International Women in Engineering Day launched
We have a vast amount of archived material held at the IET Savoy Place Archive in London. A list of what is available in the archive can be found HERE. The online catalogue can be found HERE and to see descriptions of the WES collection, simply type UK0108 NAEST 092 into the search field.