Ethel H. Bailey

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Ethel H. Bailey
Born18 August 1896
Houlton, Maine, USA
Died5 July 1985
Concord, Massachusetts, USA
Resting placeFarmington, Franklin, Maine, USA
EducationGeorge Washington University
Engineering career
DisciplineMechanical engineering
Employer(s)Raytheon Manufacturing Company
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ethel H. Bailey (18 August 1896 - 5 July 1985) was an American mechanical engineer who began her working life in aviation and went on to develop radar and spectroscopic equipment. She was called a 'trailblazer' by fellow engineer Margaret Ingels in a 1952 speech.[1] Bailey was a member of the American Automotive Society (the first woman to be admitted as a full member, in 1926[1][2]), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of American Military Engineers, and the National Society of Professional Engineers.[3] She was also a member of the British Women's Engineering Society and contributed to their journal, The Woman Engineer.

Early life[edit]

Ethel H. Bailey was born on 18 August 1896 in Houlton, Maine, USA, to Walter and Anna Bailey (née Sanders). She had one sister, Margaret (b. 1889).[4]


Bailey had been interested in radios and motorboats at high school, and during the First World War she became an assistant inspector of Liberty L-12 aeroplane engines for the U.S. government, at a test airfield in Indianapolis.[5] After the war she studied at the Michigan State Automobile School in Detroit in 1918, and George Washington University in 1920.[6]


In 1920, Bailey joined the staff of the Society of Automotive Engineers as a research engineer and became the organisation's first full female member in 1926.[6][7] In June 1925 she published a paper in The Woman Engineer journal entitled 'A Ternary Alloy Bearing Metal (The Development of a Material of Unusual Wearing Qualities)'.[8]

In September 1925 she travelled to Paris where she visited Marie Curie at her home.[8] She then travelled to London, where she represented the Society of Automotive Engineers at the very first International Conference of Women in Science, Industry and Commerce organised by Caroline Haslett and the Women's Engineering Society during the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley.[9] She spoke on 'Automotive Research' undertaken by the SAE, speaking alongside physical chemist Isabel Hadfield and electrical engineer Margaret Partridge. She was also credited as part of the Advisory Committee for the high profile conference.[8]

In 1929, Bailey wrote an appreciation of Katharine Wright Haskell (1874 – 1929) the sister, supporter and business manager of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright, for the American magazine Airway Age, and reproduced in the British The Woman Engineer journal. She ended the article with "Orville the Flyer, Wilbur the Adviser and Katharine the Inspirer".[8]

In 1929 she moved to a new job at the General Electric Co.’s Bloomfield works.[9]

During the Second World War Bailey worked procuring radar equipment at the Signal Corps Radar Laboratory, and went on to organize radar equipment for the U.S. Navy, as a mechanical engineer at the Raytheon Manufacturing Company in Waltham, Massachusetts.[10] In 1945 she was director of the technical publications division of a printing company in Boston, Massachusetts. She went on to be research assistant at the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developing spectroscopic equipment[11]


Ethel H Bailey died on 5 July 1985 in Concord, Massachusetts, USA, at the age of 88, and was buried in Farmington, Maine, USA.


  • 'Automotive Research' in The Woman Engineer, 2:4 (1925) pp. 72–3.


  1. ^ a b Layne, Margaret E. (2009-06-05). Women in Engineering: Pioneers and Trailblazers. ASCE Publications. ISBN 9780784409800.
  2. ^ Tietjen, Jill S. (2016-09-23). Engineering Women: Re-visioning Women's Scientific Achievements and Impacts. Springer. ISBN 9783319408002.
  3. ^ "Personal Notes". The Woman Engineer. 5:2: 176. June 1942 – via
  4. ^ "Ancestry - Ethel H Bailey". Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  5. ^ Bix, Amy Sue (2014-01-31). Girls Coming to Tech!: A History of American Engineering Education for Women. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262320276.
  6. ^ a b Bix, Amy Sue (2015-08-03). Rare Invaders -- The Pre-World War II History of Women in American Engineering: A BIT of Girls Coming to Tech!. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-33036-7.
  7. ^ Russell, Jeffrey S. (2001-10-01). Diversity: Special Issue of Leadership and Management in Engineering. ASCE Publications. ISBN 978-0-7844-7509-6.
  8. ^ a b c d "The Woman Engineer Vol 2". Retrieved 2020-05-20.
  9. ^ a b "28: Ethel bailey". Magnificent Women. Retrieved 2020-05-20.
  10. ^ "News of Members". The Woman Engineer. 6:5: 71. Winter 1945 – via
  11. ^ "News of Members". The Woman Engineer. 6:13: 229. Autumn 1938 – via