Mary E. Dillon

Mary E. Dillon (1886 – 20 October 1983) was an American businesswoman and President of Brooklyn Borough Gas Company. She was the first female president of any utility company in the world.

Mary E. Dillon
Mary E. Dillon.jpg
Died20 October 1983
Honolulu, Hawaii
Other namesMrs Henry Farber
EmployerBrooklyn Borough Gas Company


Mary Dillon was born in Coney Island, Manhattan, one of 12 children. Dillon left Erasmus Hall High School in her senior year when she needed to replace her sister in her job at the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company in 1903 because of her family's limited income. She was seventeen and started as a junior clerk. She got a promotion within three years to office manager and she went on to become general manager and vice president and in 1926 Dillon was named president and chairman.[1] She was the first woman to be the president of a utility.[2][3]

In the early 1920s, Dillion joined the British Women's Engineering Society (WES) and the Electrical Association for Women, at the time the only such organisations in the world. She paid them a visit in London in 1925.[1]

In the late 1920s, Dillon collaborated with fellow US WES member Dr. Lillian Gilbreth, a leading expert in time and motion studies, on the creation of an efficient kitchen, equipped with gas powered appliances and named the Kitchen Practical.[4] Inspired by Dillon's criticisms of her own kitchen, it was designed on three principles: the correct and uniform height of working surfaces; a circular work place; and a general “circular routing of working”, all carefully analysed to reduce the time and effort required in the preparation of meals.[5] It was unveiled in 1929 at a Women’s Exposition, and formed the basis for Gilbraith's development of kitchen design principles which still underlie much of kitchen planning today.[4]

Working in the Coney Island area, Dillon also served on the local school board. She was appointed to the Board of Education by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia in 1942 and became the first woman to be appointed president of the board in 1944 until 1946. She was on the governing committee of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences as well as a director of the Brooklyn and Coney Island Chambers of Commerce. During the Great Depression, in 1934, Dillon organised the Summer Portable Theater, known as the theater on wheels. Dillon was also on the Mayor's Business Advisory Council and the War Council of the City of New York.[2][3]

Dillon married Henry Farber in 1923 but always used her own name. Farber died in 1948. Dillon retired in 1949 and moved to Vermont until 1973 when she moved to Hawaii where she lived for the rest of her life.[2][3][6]

References and sourcesEdit

  1. ^ a b "The Woman Engineer Vol 2". Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  2. ^ a b c "MARY E. DILLON, 93, EX-HEAD OF CITY'S BOARD OF EDUCATION". The New York Times. 1983-11-18. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  3. ^ a b c Morris, Suzanne Spellen (aka Montrose (2014-07-03). "Miss Dillon's Gas Company". Brownstoner. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  4. ^ a b Lange, Alexandra (2012-10-25). "Why Your Kitchen Looks the Way It Looks". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  5. ^ "The Woman Engineer Vol 3". Archived from the original on 2020-06-06. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  6. ^ "WOMAN PRESIDENT OF UTILITY RETIRES; Mary E. Dillon Also Was First Feminine Head of City's Board of Education". The New York Times. 1949-03-17. Retrieved 2020-05-25.