The $30 million tunnel boring machine that will be repairing a NYC aqueduct is now paying tribute to the first woman in the United States to earn a civil engineering degree and later went on to work at the New York City Board of Water Supply. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection announced that a tunnel boring machine that will be used to repair the Delaware Aqueduct was named NORA, after Nora Stanton Blatch Deforest Barney.
Barney was a granddaughter of suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton; here's a biography provided by the DEP:
Nora attended Cornell University and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1905. She was the first woman in the United States to earn a college degree in civil engineering. That year, she also became first woman to gain membership in the American Society of Civil Engineers, as a junior member. After she graduated from Cornell, Nora worked as an engineer and draftsman for the American Bridge Company, Radley Steel Construction Company, and the New York Public Service Commission. Later in life she became a developer and architect on Long Island and in Greenwich, Connecticut.
From 1906-1908, Nora worked as a draftsman for the New York City Board of Water Supply, which was developing the first parts of the Catskill Water Supply System. She was paid $1,200 per year for her work - the highest salary for draftsmen at the project. All the others fulfilling that job were men. Little exact information is known about Nora’s work on water supply infrastructure in the Catskills. But a 1908 story from The New York Times said she had “done much difficult work on dams and weirs” for the project - an explanation that would suggest she drafted some of the infrastructure for Ashokan Reservoir and the headworks of the Catskill Aqueduct.
Nora was also noted for her work in the women’s rights movement. Her involvement was something of an heirloom passed down by her grandmother and mother. Her grandmother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, authored the “Declaration of Sentiments” that was presented at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, marking the start of an organized push for women’s rights and women’s suffrage in the United States. Nora’s mother, Harriot Stanton Blatch, was also a noted suffragist who injected new energy by broadening the movement to include working-class women in New York City, and by organizing parades up Fifth Avenue, protests at Carnegie Hall, and lobbying efforts at the State Capitol in Albany. Nora continued in that tradition. She founded a suffrage club at Cornell, became president of the Women’s Political Union in 1915, and led the charge for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have guaranteed women equal rights in the workplace. The amendment was not ratified, but it has been debated in Congress almost every year since it was introduced, including as recently as 2015.
Nora Stanton Blatch Deforest Barney died in 1971 at the age of 87.
Did you also know that the Delaware Aqueduct is also the world's largest continuous tunnel?
Barney's granddaughter, Coline Jenkins, said, "Grandma’s success in life is not spontaneous combustion. As a child, she learned from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her grandmother, guide and philosopher. Nora learned the facts of life and the history of women and her long subjugation. Later Nora became the embodiment of Elizabeth's vision of women by gaining access to higher education and professions, long denied to women. We’re happy that New York City is recognizing Nora’s important contributions by putting her name at the head of this impressive tunneling machine. There is great symbolism in this - Nora will be pushing forward and breaking ground, as she did in life."
The TBM, which is more than 470 feet long and weighs 2.7 million pounds, has a cutter head that's 21.6 feet in diameter and will be able to withstand 30 bar of pressure, "about 11 times the amount of pressure from a garden hose," the DEP says. Also: "The TBM is also equipped with dewatering equipment to pump 2,500 gallons per minute away from the tunnel as the machine drives it. In addition, the machine is outfitted with equipment to install and grout the concrete lining of the tunnel, and to convey pulverized rock to a system of railroad cars that will follow the TBM as it pushes forward."
DEP Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said, "The month of March is set aside each year to celebrate the extraordinary achievements and contributions of women in our country. Nora Stanton Blatch Barney was a talented engineer, architect and mathematician who paved the way for other women to employ their talents in these fields. While she worked on the City’s landmark water supply facilities in the Catskills, Nora also led the fight for women’s rights at the voting booth and in the workplace. Her achievements will provide considerable inspiration as we forge ahead with the largest repair in the history of New York City’s water supply."