Women In Automotive Engineering - National Women In Engineering Day
Claudia Parsons (15 August 1900 – 5 June 1998) was a pioneering engineer, intrepid traveller, and author. She was one of the very first women in England to graduate in engineering and later became the first woman to ‘circumnavigate the globe by car.
In 1919 Claudia found out from the newly formed Women’s Engineering Society that Diploma courses in Engineering were being introduced at Loughborough Technical College (now Loughborough University). She applied and was accepted, one of only three women engineering students in the whole college. Claudia Parsons graduated from Loughborough with a Diploma in Automobile Engineering in 1922 and was one of the first three women to graduate in engineering in England (from Loughborough) soon after the First World War.
The College was used during the First World War as an Instructional Factory for the Ministry of Munitions, training over 2,300 workers, mostly women.
Claudia became a paid chauffeur-companion, driving clients through the most far-flung parts of Europe, America, India, and the Far East, doing her own maintenance and repairs. In Delhi in 1938 she bought a second-hand Studebaker car and with the American anthropologist Kilton Stewart, travelled back to England via Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and France, thus completing her journey round the world.
When the Second World War broke out Claudia took a course in workshop practice for women munitions workers, devised by her friend Verena Holmes, whom she had met at Loughborough. She worked as a machinist in a munitions factory in London and later became a Munitions Factory Inspector. In later life, though she never gave up her love of motors or travelling, she became a skilled china restorer.
Loughborough University now hosts the Claudia Parsons Memorial Lecture – a series of lectures launched as part of the Athena SWAN initiative, a national programme that recognises success in developing employment practices to further support the careers of women in STEM subjects.
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