Dorothée Pullinger

Dorothée Pullinger: Pioneering Engineer, the Scottish Connection and beyond

Storytelling, film, song, performance and engineering come together in a research initiative which takes up the story of Dorothée Pullinger, a pioneering motor engineer in the 1920s, most famous for designing and building a “Car for Women” at her factory in Galloway, Scotland.  As the director and manager of Galloway Motors, she recruited a large female workforce to train as engineers and build the cars at the end of World War I. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame, in 2012. Yet, her Scottish connection is still very much unexplored.

The research was enabled by a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious award 2017 for ‘A Car for Women, and other stories’ project, and the University of the West of Scotland’s Vice Principal’s Research Fund. The project is a multidisciplinary joint venture at the University of the West of Scotland between the School of Engineering and Computing  (Professor Katherine Kirk) and the School of Media, Culture and Society (Professor Katarzyna Kosmala) in collaboration with Scottish cultural organisations and independent historians.

Our research has involved digging into the archives, conducting oral histories and interviews as well as site-specific inquiry. We have made an educational film to highlight Dorothée Pullinger’s engineering expertise, professional occupational profile and working life. We are bringing together animation works, song writing and performance to promote a better understanding of engineering careers. We are also looking at both the public’s perceptions of engineering and at engineers’ attitudes, examining how occupational culture and identity reach engineers and non-engineers alike. The project will  be a two-way process, as there are important messages that need to travel in both directions.

Statistics show that women in engineering careers are still rather rare and many of the reasons why go back a long way. Women have frequently been discouraged or even banned from the engineering profession throughout history. In 1914, despite her obvious talents as an engineer, the Institution of Automobile Engineers refused to admit Dorothée Pullinger, stating “the word ‘person’ means a man” in their articles of association. In response, she and her fellow female engineers founded the Women’s Engineering Society on 23 June 1919.