Alice Perry

Alice Jacqueline Perry (24 October 1885 – 21 April 1969) was a poet, a feminist and the first woman in Europe to graduate with a degree in engineering.[1][2][3]

Alice Perry
Alice Perry 1885-1969.jpg
Alice Jacqueline Perry

(1885-10-24)24 October 1885
Wellpark House, Galway, Ireland
Died21 April 1969(1969-04-21) (aged 83)
EducationRoyal University of Ireland, Galway
Spouse(s)John Shaw
Parent(s)James Perry and Martha Perry
Engineering career

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Wellpark, Galway in 1885, Alice was one of five daughters of James and Martha Perry (née 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 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]

Later life and deathEdit

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]


Alice Perry building NUI galway

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]


  • The children of Nazareth : and other poems (c1930)
  • The morning meal and other poems (1939)
  • Mary in the garden and other poems (1944)
  • One thing I know and other poems (c1953)
  • Women of Canaan and other poems (1961)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Engineers Ireland. "Alice Perry (1885–1969)". Engineers Ireland: Realised Vision. Engineers Ireland. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  2. ^ "the Galway woman who was Europe's first engineering graduate". Engineers Journal. 20 June 2017. Archived from the original on 31 August 2019. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Coleman, Marie (2009). "Perry (Shaw), Alice Jacqueline". In McGuire, James; Quinn, James (eds.). Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Irish Architectural Archive. "PERRY, ALICE JACQUELINE". Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720–1940. Irish Architectural Archive. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  5. ^ Irish Architectural Archive. "PERRY, JAMES". Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720–1940. Irish Architectural Archive. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d O'Connell, Claire (2009). "First in Their Field". In Mulvihill, Mary (ed.). Lab Coats and Lace. Dublin: WITS. pp. 43–45. ISBN 978-0-9531953-1-2.
  7. ^ NUI Galway. "Our history". NUI Galway. NUI Galway. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  8. ^ O'Sullivan, M. D.; O'Halloran, Joe (1999). "The Centenary of Galway College". Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. 51: 24–42.
  9. ^ NUI Galway. "Winners announced for the First All-Ireland Apps Competition". NUI Galway. NUI Galway. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  10. ^ "Series of Events to celebrate Naming of Alice Perry Engineering Building at NUI Galway". Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Engineers Ireland laments industry's 'stark' gender imbalance". The Irish Times. 6 March 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2017.

Further readingEdit

  • Ó hÓgartaigh, Margaret (2002). '"Am I a Lady or an Engineer?" Early Irish Female Engineers', Irish Engineers' Journal, December, pp. 48–49.

External linksEdit