Inventors are inspirational. Betty Lou Bailey was an inventor, environmentalist, and mechanical engineer. Her invention varied the throat and exit diameters for hot gas flows converging diverging variable exhaust nozzles. To honor her work and legacy the Society of Women Engineers named a scholarship for her. It has been given to women graduate students who pursue a career in engineering.
Betty Lou Bailey was born in 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. She had four older siblings and her father was a civil engineer. Her sister, Helen, encouraged Betty, who excelled at math and science, to become an engineer. Betty graduated high school at a young age and decided to attend the undergraduate program for mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois. Betty went on to graduate with honors in 1950. Out of about 700 graduating engineers, she was the only woman. Later in 1967, she also earned a Masters in Engineering Science from the Penn State Graduate Center in King of Prussia.
Betty Lou Bailey took engineering jobs at General Electric Company. She worked as a testing, design, and systems engineer in their Large Jet Engine Department, Gas Turbine Department, and its Valley Forge Space Technology Center. She went from work with household appliances to work with the NASA Nimbus weather satellite project. Her invention had allowed the company’s gas turbine to pass their air emission tests.
Bailey had several hobbies, including some significant outdoor pursuits. She hiked the Appalachian Trail. She became a member of the Adirondack Mountain Club. They honored her in 2004 for her work in monitoring hydropower applications to the Federal Regulatory Commission. Her work helped support river life and water recreation.
Her work led to her attending the first International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists. She joined the Society of Women Engineers in 1951 and in 1985 was elected to their SWE College of Fellows. She broke ground as the first female member of the Engineering Society of Cincinnati. She became chair of its Guidance Committee. She also served on other national engineering committees.
Betty Lou Bailey broke ground and left a legacy as a female engineer. She, unfortunately, passed away in 2007 during a Adirondack Mountain Club cycling trip. Her death, perhaps, came during a trip she loved. Be inspired! Have a bright day!