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Gail Skroback Hennessey

When the Brooklyn Bridge officially opened on May 24, 1883, at 2:00 PM ,the President of the United States, Chester Arthur, traveled over the engineering marvel in a horse drawn carriage. The bridge was fifty percent larger than any other suspension bridge in the world at the time and the first to use steel cables.Sitting in the carriage with the president was Emily Roebling. Just who was this women? Why was she greeted with such importance? It would be more than 70 years before Emily would receive any credit for her accomplishment. She helped complete the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge!

Emily Roebling was married to Washington Roebling. He became the chief engineer for what would be called the eight wonder of the world.Sadly,Roebling got carrion sickness(or the bends) and was unable to complete the construction of the bridge. He was left paralyzed and unable to speak. He also was left deaf, mute and partly blind. With their townhouse in viewing distance from the construction, he became known as the "man in the window". He would never return to the construction site.

Hoping to keep her husband's job as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, Emily was the first woman to go before the American Society of Civil Engineers and speak on her husband's behalf. The year was 1882, a time when women's place was thought to be in the home, especially, women of higher social ranking. The group allowed Washington to remain in his position.

Fortunately, Emily had studied mathematics, civil engineering and strength of different materials and cable construction prior to her husband's injury. She wanted to be able to discuss the construction progress of the bridge with her husband. Now,with her husband unable to work on the building of the bridge, Emily was determined to take on a more active role in seeing that the Brooklyn Bridge became a reality. A role that would take eleven more years. Emily made inspections at the construction site every day, met with contractors, city officials, and eventually was doing all the tasks involved in the bridge construction.

When the bridge was finished, Emily took a demonstration ride across the newly finished bridge to show its safety.Along for the ride, Emily brought a live rooster in her horse drawn carriage!

Today, there is a plaque on the Brooklyn Tower in honor of Emily and her contributions to this marvelous engineering accomplishment.

Note:Illustration from