Skip to Content
Technical Excellence in Government Contracts
and Construction Matters Since 1893.
Smith Currie Oles Morrison

Oles Morrison Celebrates Women in Construction Week – Emily Roebling

Thu Mar 11, 2021

Continuing our celebration of Womxn in Construction Week, we asked our partners for thoughts on women, past and present, who have shaped the industry. From Alix Town, Partner at Oles Morrison:

“The Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic piece of American engineering, but did you know that its construction was substantially managed by a woman? The bridge was designed by Chief Engineer John Roebling, who passed away from tetanus as a result of an on-site accident.  His son, Washington Roebling, then took over the position.  However, Washington Roebling soon became bed-ridden due to decompression sickness (commonly known as the bends in scuba-diving) from going into the caisson frequently.  During his illness, his wife, Emily Roebling took over many of his duties to ensure that the work continued including day-to-day supervision and project management.  Concerned about Mr. Roebling’s continued fitness for duty, questions arose about Mr. Roebling continuing as Chief Engineer.  Emily rose to the challenge and successfully defended her husband among the questioning politicians and engineers allowing him to retain his title while she continued the day-to-day work.  If you visit the Brooklyn Bridge today, you’ll see a plaque dedicated to both Emily and her husband recognizing their work on the project.  Emily continued to be an advocate for women’s rights and traveled the world including being presented to Queen Victoria and attending the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II.  Eventually she received a law certificate from New York University.

If you would like to learn more about the history and engineering of the Brooklyn Bridge, I highly recommend “The Great Bridge” by David McCullough.  His story telling is superb and he has good handle on the technical aspects of constructing a bridge that is satisfying to those of us who are construction junkies.”