March is Women’s History Month, and that is two of my favorite subjects. Women and history.  
The story this month is worthy of any fictional plot, it is full of love, devotion, endurance, and living outside of your defined boundaries.

This is the true story of Emily Warren Roebling, whom I like to call, the Mother of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Born Emily Warren in 1843, on September 23, she married Washington Roebling in 1865. Emily was well educated and interested in applied sciences.
Washington was an engineer, working for his father’s company. Their mutual love of the sciences probably spurred their love for each other.
Emily Roebling Academic Portrait

Washington was the son of John Roebling, a German born and very ingenious bridge designer. He was the architect of the Brooklyn Bridge, an advanced construction for its day. This bridge has rightfully taken its place as a National Historic Landmark.

After their marriage, Emily and Washington went to Germany to study caissons for the construction of bridge foundations. A caisson is basically a concrete tower sunk in place to enable workers to lay concrete at the bottom of a river.

Pneumatic, or compressed-air caissons, prevent water seepage, and allow for dryer working conditions. Since it acts as a diving bell, workers must slowly decompress before exiting.   On their return from Germany, Washington’s father, John Roebling died from tetanus, contracted through a work injury. This left the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in serious doubt. The project was left to Washington, as he was recognized as the only person capable of completing the task.

One day while exiting a caisson, Washington suffered a decompression accident, causing the ‘Bends’. This is where soluble gasses decompress and expand inside the body, damaging tissues, organs, and nerves. This often proves fatal, but Washington was left severely crippled and bed ridden, leaving him unable to continue managing the project.

Once again construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was in doubt, but Emily stepped in to manage the project to its completion. She was the only one who fully understood the design, construction techniques, strength of materials, the intricate interweaving of supporting cables, catenary curves.  

Washington would observe progress through a telescope from his bed in Brooklyn Heights, both he and Emily liaised closely on design issues. As well as design and project management, Emily had to contend with financiers, politicians, and rival engineers. As she managed so efficiently and promoted the project so rigorously, many began to believe that it was Emily who was the chief designer.

Emily oversaw the successful completion of the bridge. On the opening day, she rode in the leading carriage across the bridge. I quote from the opening speech by the Mayor Abram Stevens Hewitt;

“An everlasting monument to the sacrificing devotion of a woman, and of her capacity for that higher education from which she has been too long disbarred.”

The moral of this story?   History is not just a story; it is a lesson to be learned.   Women are attractive, but they are a lot more than just a bit of crumpet.

Thank you for following me this far.   As always play nicely with everyone else.
That’s all folks!
Bernard Wozny
Self-Published author.
Keep reading…  
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And behave?  
President of the California Writers’ Club – Sacramento Branch.  
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