CCEE Hall of Fame

Elmina Wilson

National contributions to structural engineering, dedication to engineering education, and paving the way for women in engineering

Inducted 2021

Elmina Wilson graduated from Iowa State College with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1892 and her master’s in civil engineering in 1894. She was the first American woman to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree and a master’s in civil engineering. As a student, she worked directly with Anson Marston on the design and execution of the Marston water tower on Iowa State’s campus. Wilson broke down barriers for women in engineering.

Wilson was born in Keokuk, Iowa, and originally enrolled at Iowa State under Anson Marston’s mentorship. She spent holiday breaks taking courses at MIT and Cornell while working summers for architectural and engineering firms in Chicago. After graduating, she stayed at Iowa State on staff for 10 years, eventually becoming an assistant professor until 1904.

She left Iowa State to work for a private practice in New York designing skyscrapers. Her work includes the Flatiron Building and the Metlife Tower—the tallest building in the world at the time. Wilson earned the name “first lady of structural engineering.” She and her sister, Alda Wilson, designed several homes and authored several publications individually and together.

As well as being a leading woman in engineering, Wilson was a leader in the Women’s Suffrage Movement. She was the Manhattan Women’s Suffrage Club president, a party member and a political union member.