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he Brooklyn Bridge IV:  Builder of the Brooklyn Bridge: Emily Warren Roebling, the Wife


You may ask, who was Emily Roebling? Emily Warren Roebling is the undersung, under-appreciated heroine of the Brooklyn Bridge. Emily was born and raised in the Upper Hudson River Valley at Cold Spring, New York. Although Emily had no formal training, she learned engineering from her brother and from her husband. Emily was fantastic in supervising people, whether they were office workers or construction laborers, and dealing with the politicians and the press. It was a most remarkable achievement at a time when the number of women who were lawyers or doctors in America could be counted on one hand. There were no women engineers at all.

Together, husband and wife would become an unbeatable team. Washington solved the engineering problems; Emily implemented the solutions. Washington was the engineer, the number-cruncher; Emily, the good manager, was the people person. She also handled her husband’s correspondence. When the mayor of Brooklyn tried to fire her husband from the project because he would not finish as quickly as the mayor wanted, she rallied the board of trustees to her husband=s side.

Inspecting the uncompleted Brooklyn Bridge

Ironically, Emily would not have become the world=s first woman engineer if her husband had utilized the newly invented telephone. J. L. Haige became the first paid telephone subscriber in the city for a telephone. A five mile-long wire was laid across the half finished Brooklyn Bridge, connecting this office to his steel-wire plan in Brooklyn.

Haige was the one who put rotten cable into the bridge before he was caught. The inspectors observed that the bad pile of steel kept on getting smaller instead of bigger.  They followed a wagon full of approved steel to a warehouse and saw that a switch was being made.  Haighe was made to put extra steel cable onto the bridge and he was replaced as the contractor for this operation by John August Roebling and Sons.

NYC Walks Blog 27 The Brooklyn Bridge IV:  Builder of the Brooklyn Bridge: Emily Warren Roebling, the Wife © 2018 by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg


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