Kate Gleason was born on November 25, 1865, in Rochester, New York. Although she didn't have any thorough engineering training , Kate attended Cornell University as a "special student" in 1884 to study mechanical arts. She also studied part-time at the Sibley College of Engraving and the Mechanics Institute. Kate began her career at her father's machine-tool factory.
By 1893, she and her father had designed and perfected a machine that could produce beveled gears quickly and cheaply. With Kate's help, the factory became the leading U.S. producer of gear cutting machinery prior to World War I. Due in large part to her reputation in the machine-tool business, Kate became the first woman elected to membership in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1918. Kate was an active member and in 1930, she served as ASME's representative to the World Power Conference in Germany.
During World War I, the president of the First Bank of Rochester resigned to join the military. From 1917 to 1919, Kate Gleason served as the president of the bank. She was the first woman to serve as president of a national bank. Kate had many business interests. She developed a new method for pouring concrete and, in 1921, she began selling low-cost concrete box houses in East Rochester, New York. As a result of her work, Kate became the first female member of the American Concrete Institute.
Kate Gleason died in her hometown of Rochester, New York on January 9, 1933. She left an estate of $1.4 million for charity and education. One of the beneficiaries was the Rochester Institute of Technology, who named their College of Engineering after her.
For more information on Kate Gleason, go to http://www.rit.edu/~630www/about/aboutkategleason.htm
Photo courtesy of Charles E. Brown Middle School, Newton, MA.