Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Engineer, of Galway, and later of Boston, Massachusetts. Alice Perry, one of the five daughters of JAMES PERRY JAMES PERRY , county surveyor for Galway, and his Scottish wife Martha, née Park, was born in Wellpark, Galway on 24 October 1885. After attending the High School, Galway, she won a scholarship to Queen's College, Galway, in 1902. She started to study for the BA degree but, after distinguishing herself in the mathematics exam, changed to engineering at the end of her first year. She was conferred with a first class honours degree in civil engineering in October 1906, first in her class and the first female engineering graduate in either Ireland or Britain. On graduating she was awarded a senior postgraduate scholarship but was prevented from taking it up by the death of her father the following month.

While she was a student Alice Perry had accompanied her father on his official tours and since her graduation had acted as his private secretary. Remarkably, Galway County Council voted unanimously to appoint her acting county surveyor for the western division in her father's place, at the same salary, for a period of five months. During the brief period she held the position, she worked diligently, travelling widely in the county; on 23 February 1907, reporting the appointment of PATRICK JOSEPH PRENDERGAST  PATRICK JOSEPH PRENDERGAST to the permanent post on 19 February,(1) the Connaught Champion acknowledged that 'the many and arduous duties of County Surveyor have never been better or more faithfully discharged than since they were taken over by Miss Perry'. Although the regulations governing the permanent appointment stipulated that the candidate should be at least twenty-six, have engineering experience, and be able to conduct business in Irish, Alice Perry still came joint second among the seventeen candidates, and, according to the same report in the Connaught Champion, 'every member of the County Council has borne willing testimony to her outstanding ability'. Her duties ended in April 1907. She applied for the East Galway county surveyorship in May 1907 but was not selected.

In 1908 Alice Perry moved to London, where she joined the Civil Service, first as an inspector of fisheries and then as a factory inspector. She was transferred to the Glasgow office of the inspectorate in 1915. In the same year she was admitted a member of the Church of Christ Scientist, having been brought up as a Presbyterian. On 30 September 1916 she married Robert Shaw, who was then serving in the Army and was killed on the Western Front a little over a year later. After his death Christian Science became Alice Perry's focus. She left the factory inspectorate in 1921 and in 1923 went to Boston, Massachussetts. Although she had planned to stay for only six months, she remained there for the rest of her life, working as poetry editor for Christian Science periodicals and also as a Christian Science practitioner. Seven volumes of her poetry were published by the Christian Science Society. She died in Boston on 21 August 1969. The year before her death she placed a plaque in memory of her parents in Galway Presbyterian church.


All information in this entry is from Brendan O'Donoghue, The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 277-278, from Margaret O hOgartaigh, 'Far from few: professional women in Ireland, 1880-1930', unpublished Ph.D. thesis, UCD, 1991 (B.O'D.), and from Sidney Geraghty, 'The first woman engineer?', Engineers Journal, Mar/Apr 1998, 31-33, which is illustrated with two photographs of Perry (B.O'D.)) See also IB 47, 12 Aug 1905, ? 48, 15 Dec 1906, 989,1014. Another photograph of Perry is in IB 100, 3 May 1958, 327.

IB 49, 23 Feb 1907, 121.

Author Title Date Details
Geraghty, Sidney 'The first woman engineer?' 1998 Engineers Journal, Mar/Apr 1998, 31-33.