A Woman to Know: Emily Roebling

By and by it was common gossip that hers was the great mind behind the great work and this, the most monumental engineering triumph of the age, was actually the doing of a woman.— David McCullough


The year: 1872.
The scene: New York! New York City! Clouded with smoke and construction, a city in its infancy!
The players: A bespectacled Washington Roebling, suddenly struck down by illness. His dashing wife Emily, huddled at his bedside in Brooklyn Heights.
Curtain lifts on a couple in crisis, a city in turmoil and a bridge half-finished ...


Several years into the construction of the city's most prized architectural landmark, Washington Roebling, chief engineer for the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, lost his hearing, his power of speech and his mobility. Once a dynamic, fresh-eyed manager, he was now confined to his bed in his Brooklyn Heights home, looking out his window with a view of the construction site, but no ability to direct the next phase.

His wife Emily began their new routine, one which would endure for the next 11 years. She took meticulous notes from her husband's bedside, she memorized a lifetime of engineering knowledge in months, she studied the blueprints and she learned everything about every member of the Brooklyn Bridge crew. In her petticoats and high heels, she began directing daily construction of New York's treasured bridge. When the architectural feat was (finally) opened in 1883, the city affixed a plaque thanking the Roeblings -- *both* Roeblings -- for connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan.

End scene.

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