The Engineer's Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood
The exciting story of a woman that history didn't tell you about.
Synopsis: We often take for granted things that exist. We don't question how they came to be or what life was like for the people who were involved in their creation. The creation of the Brooklyn Bridge is one such creation that millions of people utilize, and probably never think about the history of. The Engineer's Wife tells the story of the difficulties faced in the bridge's creation, with a focus on Emily Roebling, the woman married to the bridge's engineer, Wash Roebling . During the bridge's 13 year construction, she stood by, supporting her husband, offering helpful insight, setting aside her own desires, all in order to help create the Brooklyn Bridge.
When Wash comes down with a case of caisson disease, Emily takes a lead role in managing the bridge's construction - a role that was unheard of for women in the late 1800's. As expected, this was not a role that was readily accepted by all the men involved. The strength of the Roeblings as they faced many tribulations in both their personal and work lives is admirable.
This book discusses the creation of bridges before the Brooklyn Bridge, how the Brooklyn Bridge was different, and explores the many dangers that workers faced, including caisson disease. The book also imagines some less factual information such as the family's involvement with PT Barnum and the creation of roasted peanuts as snacks for people. There are also insights into other inventions of the time such as the evolution of the hair pin, events of the suffrage movement and PTSD in soldiers - at the time referred to as "Soldier's Heart."
This is my most favorite type of historical fiction. I learned so much about the history of the world at this time. When an author can educate as well as entertain, they are superb in my mind! I will be adding Tracey Enerson Wood to my list of authors whose books I read without question. I will never again be able to cross an old bridge without thinking about all the people who were injured, died, or permanently disabled during it's creation.
After reading, I did some research on Emily. I discovered that Congressman Abram S. Hewitt determined the Brooklyn Bridge to be, “An everlasting monument to the self-sacrificing devotion of woman” and stated “The name of Mrs. Emily Warren Roebling will thus be inseparably associated with all that is admirable in human nature.” Due to her dedication to the construction of the bridge, Emily was the first to cross the Brooklyn Bridge after it opened on May 24, 1883. Emily later went to law school at New York University’s Women’s Law class, earning her degree. Sadly, her health declined and on February 28, 1903, Emily passed away in the Roebling’s Trenton mansion. (http://roeblingmuseum.org/ourstory/emily-warren-roebling/).
The only quip I have with the book is the amount of factual things that the author changed. When I read the afterward, I was slightly disappointed with a few things, but the book was still very much enjoyable.
"To be successful in a man's world, I would be strong."
"Alas, wisdom is often gained after we first have need of it."
"My main limitation seemed to be a distinct lack of knowing my place. Or rather a lack of interest in my preordained place."
Thank you to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark, and Tracey Enerson Wood for the ARC of The Engineer's Wife in exchange for my honest review.