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Meet the Woman Who Made the Brooklyn Bridge Possible

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It’s no secret that the Brooklyn Bridge was and still is an architectural marvel. It is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States and is recognized not only as a landmark for New York City, but for the world itself.

And while many may know of this famous bridge, the story of the woman who played a pivotal role in its construction is sometimes left untold. Emily Roebling was the wife of Washington Roebling, chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge. While John Roebling, Washington’s father, was actually the one who laid the design for the Brooklyn Bridge, he passed away before the construction of it, therefore leaving the job to his son. It had taken John more than a decade to advertise and receive approval for construction of the bridge, but he would unfortunately never see the fruits of his vision.

During the construction of the bridge, Washington Roebling fell ill and was unable to tend to construction matters. His wife was left responsible for daily communications with the workers, monitoring to ensure everything went as planned and even studying about the many properties of the materials and construction work. Essentially, she carried out all the duties the bridge’s chief engineer would have normally done. Despite the death of her father-in-law and the illness of her husband, Emily’s dedication and hard work led to the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge.

During the grand opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, Emily was accompanied by President Chester Arthur as they became the first to ride across the bridge carrying a rooster as a symbol of victory. A plaque on the bridge was also placed in her honor, reading: “The builders of the bridge dedicated to the memory of Emily Warren Roebling whose faith and courage helped her stricken husband Col. Washington Roebling, C.E. complete the construction of this bridge from the plans of his father John A Roebling C.E. who gave life to this bridge, back of every great work we can find ‘the self-sacrificing devotion of a woman.’”

Emily Roebling later went on to study at New York University and became involved in many causes that helped support the advancement of women.

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