top of page


The tunnel boring machine's namesake is?

The answer to the question in the title is—Nora Stanton Barney.

Recently, I spoke from a house balcony (a novel experience!) at the dedication ceremony of a roadside marker honoring Nora Stanton Barney, a suffragist, civil engineer, designer of the house, and the granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The marker was unveiled on the balcony by (l-r): her granddaughter, Coline Jenkins, and her great grandson and great granddaughter, Eric Jenkins-Sahlin and Elizabeth Jenkins-Sahlin. Next to them, wearing suffrage white, is Susan Fox, introduced as "Alice Paul," who sang suffrage songs.

A graduate of Cornell University, Nora was among the first American women to earn a degree in civil engineering. Shortly after her graduation in 1906, an article in a Kenosha, Wisconsin, newspaper that was reprinted elsewhere heralded her admission as the "first woman to earn membership in the American Society of Civil Engineers."* And, that she had been offered a position in China to "help plan and perfect the great system of railroads to be constructed there." Nora was, according to the article, "a tall, well developed, fine looking girl and an athlete . . . one of the best swimmers, irrespective of sex that ever attended Cornell."

Later that year, an article in a Raleigh, North Carolina, newspaper that also appeared elsewhere, "Woman Elects Engineering," announced her appointment to New York City's "staff of civil engineers."(left image)

(The source of the articles was, most likely, her media/publicity savvy and proud mother Harriot Stanton Blatch, the daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and herself a leader in the fierce fight for the vote. Several things in the articles jumped out at me: the disclaimer that she got the job on "merit," the personal descriptions, and the fact that Harriot was not identified as a noted suffragist.)

In 2017, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection named a $30 million tunnel boring machine NORA, after Nora Stanton Barney. NORA was built to repair two leaks in the 85-mile-long Delaware Aqueduct, the longest tunnel in the world, that carries approximately half of New York City's water supply of 1.3 billion US gallons per day. Every day since the 1990s, up to 36 million U.S. gallons leak from the aqueduct. For almost 20 months, NORA,

470- feet long and 2.7 pounds, and a crew of hard-hat laborers worked six days a week, 24-hours a day to create a 2.5-mile-long bypass tunnel 600 feet below the Hudson River, the "centerpiece" of the $1 billion repair project that will be completed in 2023.

Image below: l-r: Nora, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriot; Nora,

below: Marker and (l-r): Nora's granddaughter Coline Jenkins, great grandson and granddaughter Eric Sahlin-Jenkins, Elizabeth Sahlin-Jenkins.

The marker, located at 700 Steamboat Road, Greenwich, Connecticut, reads: VOTES FOR WOMEN/ NORA STANTON BARNEY,/ 1883-1971, SUFFRAGIST, CIVIL/ ENGINEER & GRANDDAUGHTER/OF ELIZABETH CADY STANTON/DESIGNED THIS HOUSE./William C. Pomeroy Foundation, 2022. (Note: The distinctive marker with the purple lettering is on the National Votes of Women Trail, a project of the National Collaborative for Women's History Sites. The William C. Pomeroy Foundation is funding numerous historic suffrage markers

*Her 1905 admittance to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) was as a junior status member. Because she was a woman, she was later denied admittance as an associate member. The ASCE granted her posthumous membership in 2015 and then elevated her as a Fellow of the association.

Newspaper citations:"Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Granddaughter,"Kenosha News, May 28, 1906, p. 7.

"Women Elects Engineering,"The Raleigh Times, Nov. 29, 1906, p. 13.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page