News from 1900--Alverda M. Stout becomes a licensed engineer at age 18 - An Engineer's Aspect


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Friday, March 17, 2017

News from 1900--Alverda M. Stout becomes a licensed engineer at age 18

Happy Friday! As a salute to an early woman engineer during Women's History Month, I'm spotlighting a remarkable young woman from Ohio who made her mark at the turn of the 20th Century. Alverda M. Stout became a licensed steam engineer in 1900 at the age of eighteen!

Transcribed below are two news articles featuring Ms. Stout, the first from a magazine in 1900 and the second from a newspaper in 1901.

The following article was published in a magazine Power in the December issue of 1900 ( Submitted by A. G. Weyand, 907 Prospect Street, Bucyrus, Ohio 44820.

As a consequence of the passage of a state license law in Ohio last year a girl engineer has been discovered in that state. There is at Dyesville a fifty barrel flour mill, and when the inspector arrived he found the steam plant in charge of a young lady of less than twenty years of age. Inquiring as to who was the regular engineer he was informed that she was in full and regular charge, firing the boiler, tending the engine and running the mill as well.

Upon being informed that she could not continue without a license she indicated her willingness to be examined, passed a creditable examination, and there was nothing for the inspector to do but to give her a certificate. Upon reading of the occurrence we wrote to the young lady, verifying the report and obtained her consent to pose for the picture reproduced herewith.

Alverda M. Stout
Photo by A. G. Weyand

Her name is Miss Alverda Stout. Less than two years ago, at the age of seventeen, she entered the mill, which belongs to her father, as bookkeeper, became interested in the milling processes and the machinery and mastered its operation, including that of the engine and boiler, of which she has been for some time in sole charge.

The photograph shows her costume, with gloves, cap and rainy-day skirt, and the appearance of the plant, which the inspector says is well kept up. The readers of our correspondence department will recall a lady contributor to that department who used to discuss engineering questions with interest and intelligence, but this lady is, we think, without question the first who can show a license as a regular engineer. This is an extension of the feminine of endeavor in a new direction in which we venture to predict, it will not extend very far.

Davenport Daily Republican, Davenport, Iowa, Tuesday, January 1, 1901, Page 5.


Miss Alverda M. Stout

Special Correspondence


ANOTHER triumph for the new woman, another advance into masculine territory, another field of endeavor opened to progressive femininity--the new woman is now an engineer! Into law, art, science, trade she has long since carried her indomitable and conquering personality, but the encroachment into the engine room is a new one and well worthy of a record as being perhaps the opening wedge of a great reform which will sweep into oblivion the grimy, oily, surly, dirty, tobacco-using engineer of tradition and replace him by the sightly, cool-headed, deft-fingered, cleanly twentieth century woman engineer.

The winner of this first bloodless victory for the cause of emancipated womanhood, this victory which may prove so pregnant with possibilities is Miss Alverda M. Stout, of Dyesville, Ohio. She is only 18 years old, which makes all the more remarkable her success in achieving the distinction of being
the first member of the fair sex to ever receive official sanction to practice as engineer.

The laws of Ohio are very stringent regarding the qualification of engineers. In order to protect the great manufacturing establishments laws have been passed which render it necessary for all applicants for engineers' certificates to pass a very severe examination and any one who operates an engine without securing a license in liable to arrest and imprisonment. Recently among the candidates State Examiner N. T. Collier was astounded to find a woman, or rather, to be more exact, a girl--a brown-eyed, brown-haired slip, whose appearance betokened a greater familiarity with books than ponderous engines. Her hands were white and dainty and free from oil or grime; her dress, though modest, was charming and her whole appearance was very antithesis of the traditional conception of the engineer.

But when Mr. Collier came to put the questions to the fair young candidate he found that appearances are frequently deceptive. She displayed a technical knowledge far beyond that of many of the male applicants. She knew every part of the engine, was familiar with their workings, understood the whole science of the generation of steam, the creation and distribution of power, what to do in case of an emergency, and all the other points which are essential to the equipment of an expert engineer.

A few days since your correspondent called on Miss Stout and had a chance to see the actual practical workings of the mill controlled by the only woman engineer. The establishment is a flour mill, owned by her father, and Miss Stout is not only engineer, but is also superintendent and has full charge of all the employes. Her engine is a 45-horse power, with a capacity of fifty barrels a day. On entering the engine room the first thing that impresses the eye of the visitor is its scrupulous cleanliness. Not a spot of dust is to be seen, the brass work has been polished to a mirror-like brilliancy, no dirty rags or pools of oil are to be seen, but order prevails everywhere.

Wearing a rough dress something on the style of a sculptress' gown, the girl engineer, oil can in hand, was lubricating one of the journals of the throbbing machine when your correspondent entered. After she had finished and everything was working to her satisfaction she answered some questions regarding her work and the causes which had led her to adopt for a woman such a strange profession.

Illustration of Alverda Stout working as an engineer.
"I was raised in the mill," she said, "and know every cog and bearing in that engine. Until two years ago, however, I had no thought of becoming engineer. I was bookkeeper at that time, and by brother, D. B. Stout, was miller and engineer. After a while I became dissatisfied with clerical work and began to develop a positive passion for machinery. I resolved to become an engineer, and neither protests nor ridicule availed to turn me from my purpose.

"I began firing in July, 1899, and spent my leisure time reading technical books and mastering the rudiments of engineering. With the help of my father I made rapid progress, and in six months he pronounced me competent to handle the engine myself. I then sent in my application to the State Board, and succeeded in passing the examination without any great difficulty. Before granting me my license a local deputy visited the mill and watched me operate the machine. It was through his favorable report that I at last received my credentials as expert engineer with full authority to practice anywhere within the confines of the State."