Betty Lou Bailey Oral History

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Betty Lou Bailey Oral History


There were few other women studying engineering at the University of Illinois when Betty Lou Bailey entered its undergraduate mechanical engineering program. When she received her degree in 1950 she was the only woman in a graduating class of 700 engineers. Following her graduation, she began what would become a long and successful career at General Electric.

Bailey originally planned on focusing her engineering talents on household appliances, however she discovered that she liked turbines more than refrigerators while working as a testing engineer for GE. During her career she held positions as a testing, design, and systems engineer in GE's Large Jet Engine Department, Gas Turbine Department, and in its Valley Forge Space Technology Center, where she worked on the NASA Nimbus weather satellite project. She received a Master of Engineering from Penn State in 1967 and became a registered Professional Engineer in Ohio and New York. She holds a patent for a variable exhaust nozzle.

A member of the Society of Women Engineers since 1951, Bailey has been an officer of the Philadelphia Section and served on the SWE Executive Committee. Bailey's contributions to SWE were recognized in 1985 when she was elected to the College of Fellows. She was the first woman member of the Engineering Society of Cincinnati, and eventually became the chair of its Guidance Committee. She has also served on national committees for the National Society of Professional Engineers, the Engineers Joint Council, and the American Society for Engineering Education.

Oral History Item


Deborah Rice


Bailey, Betty Lou

Date Recorded



Minnesota; 1941-1959


“Betty Lou Bailey Oral History,” Michigan Oral History Database, accessed June 13, 2024,

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