In the Year of Engineering and Centenary of Women’s Suffrage, the show tells the story of Sarah Guppy, an engineer, inventor, campaigner, designer, reformer, writer, environmentalist and business woman.
Sarah moved to Bristol in 1795 when she married merchant Samuel Guppy. She supported Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was the mother of (along with another five children) Thomas Guppy, who worked with Brunel on many projects, including the SS Great Britain.
She was the first woman to formally designed and patent bridge, along with inventing other creations, such as an early teasmade which cooked eggs in its steam and an exercise bed. Sarah also mentored Brunel with his winning entry to design a bridge to span the Avon Gorge – the now iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge.
The show drew many parallels with the present day and explicitly links Sarah’s achievements to the challenges experienced by women today, asking them to build on her pioneering steps. There was even a mention for some of our Women Like Me participants as shining examples of women currently shaping the future of engineering in Bristol. And Storysmith Books, Bristol’s new independent bookshop, were inspired by the show to create a display of books featuring women in STEM. Almost 250 years after her birth, Sarah Guppy continues to light the way for women in engineering.