Alice Perry 1885-1969.jpgAlice Jacqueline Perry (24 October 1885 – 21 April 1969) was the first woman Engineering graduate (Queen’s College, Galway) in 1906.

She was a poet, a feminist and the first woman in Europe to graduate with a degree in engineering.[1][2][3]

Born in Wellpark, Galway in 1885, Alice was one of five daughters of James Perry and Martha Park.[4] Her father was the County Surveyor in Galway West and co-founded the Galway Electric Light Company.[5] Her uncle, John Perry, was a Fellow of the Royal Society and invented the navigational gyroscope.[6] After graduating from the High School in Galway, she won a scholarship to study at Queen's College Galway in 1902. Having excelled in mathematics, she changed from studying for a degree in arts to an engineering degree. She graduated with first class honours in 1906.[1][7] The family appear to have been academically gifted. Her sisters Molly and Nettie also went on to third level education. Nettie studied modern languages and went on to become a lecturer in Spanish at London University. Molly was described as "the most distinguished mathematician of her time in the college".[3] A third sister Agnes earned BA (1903) and MA (1905) in mathematics from Queen's College Galway (later UCG then NUIG), taught there in 1903–1904, was a Royal University of Ireland examiner in mathematics in 1906, and later became assistant headmistress at a secondary school in London.[8] Her sister Martha married the map scholar, Edward William O'Flaherty Lynam, and their son also became an engineer, Joss Lynam. All of the Perry sisters were involved in the suffrage campaign in Galway.[3]

Following her 1906 graduation Alice was offered a senior postgraduate scholarship but owing to her father's death the following month, she did not take up this position.[4] In December 1906 she succeeded her father temporarily as county surveyor for Galway County Council.[4] She remained in this position for five[4] or six[1] months until a permanent appointment was made. She was an unsuccessful candidate for the permanent position and for a similar opportunity to be a surveyor in Galway East.[4] She remains the only woman to have been a County Surveyor (County Engineer) in Ireland.[1] In 1908 she moved to London with her sisters, where she worked as a Lady Factory Inspector for the Home Office.[1] From there she moved to Glasgow, at which point she converted from Presbyterianism to Christian Science in 1915.[6] She met and married John (Bob) Shaw on 30 September 1916.[4] Shaw was a soldier who died in 1917 on the Western Front.[1][4]

Perry retired from her inspector's position in 1921[6] and became interested in poetry, first publishing in 1922.[1] In 1923 she moved to Boston, the headquarters of Christian Science.[6] Until her death in 1969, Perry worked within the Christian Science movement as a poetry editor and practitioner,[4] publishing seven books of poetry.[1]

Her nephew, Joss Lynam, donated a collection of her poetry to NUI Galway in 1996.[3] An All-Ireland medal has been named in her honour, The Alice Perry Medal, with the first prizes awarded in 2014.[9] On Monday 6 March 2017, NUI Galway held an official ceremony to mark the naming of the Alice Perry Engineering Building.[10][11]


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