University of the West of Scotland leads a three-year project that hopes to inspire the next generation of women to pursue careers in engineering by revealing the untold histories of women engineers. The project is led by a multidisciplinary team at the UWS: Professor Katherine Kirk of the School of Engineering and Computing and Prof Katarzyna Kosmala of the School of Media Culture and Society, and involves an engineer Dr Evi Viza, a filmmaker, Tony Grace, Dr Nina Baker, an independent engineering historian, and Neil Johnson-Symington, curator at Riverside Museum of Transport in Glasgow.
Drawing on archival research, memorabilia, interviews and oral histories, the team is now creating a film about the engineering pioneer and hero – Dorothée Pullinger – linking with Scottish industrial heritage. With Dorothée’s local engineering roots as an apprentice in Paisley and her history of championing women’s involvement in engineering, she is an obvious fit for a film exploring women’s engagement with engineering and rewriting history.
The Royal Academy of Engineering funded project “A Car for Women” celebrates Dorothée Pullinger’s life and achievements as a pioneering female engineer, car designer, rally driver and entrepreneur. The documentary traces her life and focuses on the development of the `Galloway Car’ and the unique female focused engineering workforce Dorothée set up after the First World War in Tongland near Kirkcudbright where the modern hydro-electric powered factory had tennis courts on the roof for the workers to use. Filming has taken place in Guernsey, Paisley, Tongland and Glasgow where the Riverside Museum has a striking example of the Galloway car.
The film acts as a vehicle for the project; a means to tell Dorothée’s untold story – not just reaching engineers through exemplars of entrepreneurship, innovation and engineering, but also engaging with Scottish heritage, rewriting history and providing creative opportunities for cultural and media students and researchers.
This is the team’s first STEM public engagement multidisciplinary project that aims to promote a better understanding of engineering careers, including contributions from present day engineers. Dorothée was chosen as her story continues invisible despite her extraordinary contribution in the engineering field. The story enabled engagement with Scotland’s industrial heritage, merging contemporary visual culture with archives and engineering history. This action research archaeology is aimed to fill the gaps in historical knowledge by telling women-centred stories and showcasing the effects that they have had on the engineering field and beyond, which will in turn impact young women just entering engineering and engineering apprentices.
The team’s engagement in the process of rewriting history and recognition of women’s contributions in professional fields, aims at change in professional and organisational cultures as well as in parallel academic cultures and learning and teaching environment more generally. The aim is that the project will inspire further research into the area, uncovering more untold women-centred stories, making them visible and generally accessible by putting them into the public domain. The project is included in the UWS 2018/19 Postgraduate prospectus, so is already encouraging the next intake of UWS students to consider a career in engineering.