The German refugee, Ira (Irene) Rischowski, 1899–1988, was a pioneering female electrical engineer and a staunch advocate of women entering the engineering profession, both in Germany and in British exile. She was the only woman to study engineering in her year at the TU Darmstadt in 1919, and reportedly the only female engineer to seek refuge from Nazism in Britain.

After her arrival in Britain in 1936, her gender continued to be a problem: as a female refugee, the only occupation open to her was that of domestic servant. However, with the help of the London-based Women’s Engineering Society, she succeeded in maintaining her professional knowledge and making useful contacts (she managed to obtain an engineering post in January 1939). Her wish to establish herself professionally in her country of exile was interrupted by eighteen months of internment as an ‘enemy alien.’ After her release, however, she managed to obtain a post in the drawing office of a machine tool factory, and she worked in engineering for a series of British companies until her retirement in 1977. Throughout her career and after her retirement, Rischowski campaigned against prejudice towards women engineers in their studies and in the profession, leading by example.

Speaker – Charmian Brinson, Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication

This seminar will take place both live at CLCC and online.

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