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British Industrial History

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Margaret Dorothea Rowbotham

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Margaret Dorothea (Dorothy) Rowbotham (1883–1978), engineer

1883 Born in Plumstead, Kent, the eldest daughter of John Edward Rowbotham (1851–1921), managing clerk to a shipbroker, and his wife, Miriam Ann, née Isaac (1853–1940).

She attended Blackheath High School and Girton College, Cambridge (1902–5)

1906 Obtained the teacher's diploma at Cambridge Training College.

1906-13 she was resident mathematics mistress at Roedean School

1913 Rowbotham studied motor engineering and gained the Royal Automobile Club's Driver's Certificate

1914 Became mathematics mistress at Havergal College in Winnipeg

1916 Returned to Britain; trained in the workshops and drawing offices of Galloway Engineering Co. Ltd and Arrol Johnston, Ltd, Dumfries

1917 Made machine shop and then works superintendent at Galloway Engineering Co.'s Tongland Works (under Dorothée Pullinger). The plant was a social experiment to provide an "engineering university" for women, as well as producing munitions but it soon became a typical munitions factory, employing mainly local women.

1919 Founding member of the Women's Engineering Society

1920 Applied for membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers but was rejected.

1921 Left Galloway's. Became Assistant Works Manager at Swainson Pump Co. Ltd, Newcastle.

1922 Left Swainsons. She then became a premium pupil, paying to study laundry management under Ethel B. Jayne, a noted industrial manager, at her network of Little Laundries.

1923 Returned to Roedean as school secretary and bursar

1927 She joined another WES founder member, Margaret M. Partridge, in her electrical engineering company, M. Partridge and Co. Ltd, electrical engineers of Exeter.

She was successively the secretary and then manager at the company. She was mentor and supervisor to the girl apprentices, including the young Beatrice Shilling, later a noted aeronautical engineer.

1927-32 Rowbotham was chairman of the Cheriton Fitzpaine Electric Co-operative Society Ltd., Devon, which built small local power stations, connecting customers in Devon directly to the local electrical supply.

1933-45 She moved into hotel management as managing director and manageress of the Osborne Hotel Ltd, Exeter.

Late 1950s moved to live with her lifelong friend Margaret Partridge in Willand Old Village, Devon.

1978 died in Exeter.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of Margaret Rowbotham, ODNB