Skip to main content
/ HISTORY

BBC Local | South Scotland | Things to do | People & Places | TV & Radio |
12:19 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Dorothee Pullinger pioneer in car

Dorothee Pullinger (The Automobile, Enthusiast Publishing)

Meet Dorothée Pullinger, Scotland's only female motor manufacturer.

She managed production of the Galloway model.

"A car built by ladies, for those of their own sex." (Light Car and Cycle, 1921)

Imagine a car factory where the workers are mainly women.

There's a tennis court on the roof, swimming pool, hockey team, and a piano room for relaxation.

Unique venture

The Galloway (Dumfries Museum)

This was Arrol-Johnston's Tongland plant near Kirkcudbright in the early 1920s. Dorothée Pullinger was the manager.

Tongland was a unique venture where Dorothée ran a ladies engineering college. According to the prospectus it provided: "educated women, to whom a life of independence from relations is necessary, a new career of brilliant prospects." (The Automobile, August 1995)

Because women were fast learners, their apprenticeships lasted three years, compared with the usual five for men.

Dorothée produced the Galloway model at Tongland - a light-weight vehicle marketed specifically for women. There is one on public display at Glasgow's Museum of Transport.

Finally accepted

Portrait of Dorothee Pullinger (The Automobile, Enthusiast Publishing)

In her spare time Dorothée liked to race and regularly took part in the Scottish Six Day Trials, winning with the Galloway in 1924.

She applied to join the Institution of Automobile Engineers in 1914, but was refused on the grounds that "the word person means a man and not a woman."

Dorothée was finally accepted as the Institution's first female member after managing a 7,000-strong female workforce at the Vickers munitions factory at Barrow-in-Furness during World War One.

This achievement also earned her an MBE.

Struggled

After the war, small manufacturers such as Arrol-Johnston, making hand-built motors, struggled to compete with new assembly line production methods developed by Ford in America.

The Tongland plant was shut down in 1923, with Galloway production transferred to the main factory at Heathhall, Dumfries, until its closure in 1928.

Like many women of her time, Dorothée also experienced a backlash against female workers once troops returned home.

She moved to Croydon with her husband, where she set up a laundry business claiming that: "washing should not be doing men out of a job."

Pioneering

The Galloway (Museum of Transport)

Dorothée was born in 1894 in France. She had two children and died on Guernsey aged 92. One of the pioneering middle class women who chose the economic route to emancipation during the suffragette era, Dorothée was committed to the political cause and her female workers wore company badges in suffragette colours.

Her father, TC Pullinger, was the manager at Heathhall, and assisted with her career. He provided her with an apprenticeship and access to senior posts. He was sympathetic to women's advancement, stating that:

"they are born mechanics, who work their brains as well as their hands, and they learn with astonishing rapidity. I am convinced that there is an immense future in engineering for women…"

Although Dorothée continued campaigning to develop the role of women through the Women's Engineering Society, only 10% of professional engineers are female according to the 2001 census.

The glory days of Scottish motoring may seem miles away from the current auto-industry slowdown, but Dorothée Pullinger remains an inspiration for new generations of capable women seeking equality of employment.




E-mail this to a friend


Museum of Transport
Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura


BBC Local | South Scotland | Things to do | People & Places | TV & Radio |
People & Places Contents:  Nature & Outdoors | History | Religion & Ethics | Arts & Culture | BBC Introducing