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Olive Dennis

Portrait of Olive DennisOlive Dennis was the first female member of the American Railway Engineering Association.

Olive Dennis was educated at Goucher College in Maryland and Columbia University in New York City. She later taught math in the Baltimore City schools for ten years. Dennis was the second woman to graduate from Cornell University with a degree in civil engineering. She also held a master's degree in math and astronomy from Columbia University. Finding work as an engineer was hard for Olive because she was a woman. Finally, in September 1920, she began work as draftsman in the engineering department for the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad.

In November of 1921, Olive was designated as the engineer of service. This was mainly due to an effort to keep the support of female passengers as cars and intercity buses became more common. Her responsibility was to improve passenger service on the B & O.

For the next 30 years, Olive contributed to passenger comfort in various ways. She invented and held the patent for the Dennis ventilator, which was in the windows of passenger cars and could be controlled by passengers. She also played a major role in air-conditioning the coaches, dimming overhead lights, reclining individual seats, and creating stain-resistant upholstery.

Olive Dennis became the first female member of the American Railway Engineering Association. She is one of the most notable women in the railroad industry. She never felt gender stood in the way of advancement. Dennis's achievements noted her as a remarkable woman in her time and now. 

Photo retrieved from Wikipedia, "Olive Dennis as a student at Gaucher College, class of 1908".