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Who is Emily Warren Roebling?


This weekend we had a brunch date combined with the delivery of granddaughter Quinn for an overnight with Uncle Stephen and Aunt Alvina who live in Brooklyn. As I drove across the Brooklyn Bridge, I slowed down a bit at the halfway point to tell Quinn that there was a historic marker on one of the giant pillars to Emily Warren Roebling.


Emily Warren Roebling, I told Quinn, was the woman who when her husband, the chief engineer, got disabled, she studied engineering and stepped in to take charge. Day-by-day for eleven years, (1872-1883), she managed the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, then the longest and tallest bridge in the world.


At the dedication on Mary 24, 1883, Abram Hewitt, a member of Congress heralded her: "The name of Mrs. Emily Warren Roebling will thus be inseparably associated with all that is admirable in human nature, and with all that is wonderful in the constructive world of art." She was given the honor of driving the first team of horses across the bridge. The newspaper article on the left is from the Vermont Watchman and State Journal , May 30, 1883, p. 2. (Click to enlarge the image.)


Emily Warren Roebling was low key about her engineering feat in public. Not so in a 1898 letter to her son John, she wrote,: “I have more brains, common sense, and know-how generally than any two engineers civil or uncivil that I have ever met,

and but for me the Brooklyn Bridge would never have had the name of Roebling in any way connected with it!"


Many years ago, I visited Emily Warren Roebling's historic marker. My photograph appeared on the March page of the 1998 "Women in Transportation: Changing America's History" Monthly Planner. (Top image is the cover of the Planner. Emily is the middle picture in the third row. The image below is the March page with my photo on the left page bottom right corner.)

The planner was produced by the United States Department of Transportation and included reference material and a poster (see below) that I happily have in my archives.

The marker on the Brooklyn Bridge reads: THE BUILDERS OF THE BRIDGE/DEDICATED T0 THE MEMORY OF/EMILY WARREN ROEBLING/1843-1903/WHOSE FAITH AND COURAGE HELPED HER STRICKEN HUSBAND/COL. WASHINGTON A. ROEBLING, C. E./1837-1926/COMPLETE THE CONSTRUCTION OF THIS BRIDGE/BACK OF EVERY GREAT WORK/WE CAN FIND/THE SELF-SACRIFICING DEVOTION OF A WOMAN./THIS TABLET ERECTED 1931 BY/THE BROOKLYN ENGINEERS CLUB/WITH FUNDS FAISED BY POPULAR SUBSCRIPTION.




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