Dorothée Pullinger (1894–1986)

Dorothée Pullinger was a British business leader in the automobile and laundry industries. She asserted the rights of women in engineering by establishing a women’s engineering college, employing large numbers of women in industrial production and in 1919 co-founding the Women’s Engineering Society.

Pullinger was born in northern France, where her father Thomas Pullinger designed cars for several French automobile makers in the 1890s. The family returned to Britain in 1902, where Thomas Pullinger worked for car manufacturers in the Midlands. In 1910 he became managing director of the Arrol-Johnston Car Company at Paisley in southern Scotland and Dorothée, aged 16, took an apprenticeship in the company’s drawing office.

At the outbreak of the First World War Dorothée Pullinger became a manager of a factory at Barrow-in-Furness that employed 7,000 women to make explosive shells. At the end of the war she jointed a new subsidiary of the Arrol-Johnston car company, Galloway Motors, as a director. She managed the production of a new car – the Galloway – that was marketed specifically to women. It was designed by her father as a light, compact car with good storage space. The factory, at Kirkcudbright in southern Scotland, was staffed by female workers and apprentices. Pullinger also headed an engineering college for women that was attached to the factory. In 1921, she became the first female member of the Institution of Automobile Engineers, after she had initially been refused membership because she was a woman and then had declined the offer of associate membership. The Galloway was in production from 1920 to 1925. Pullinger raced it frequently and in 1924 won the Scottish Six Day Trials.

Increasing unemployment resulted in accusations that women in industry were taking jobs from men. After she married in 1924, Pullinger left the company. With her husband she moved to London and set up a laundry using American steam laundry technology, eventually expanding the business to 17 branches. During the Second World War she advised the British government on industrial production and the Nuffield (Morris) car company on women’s employment. After the war she sold the laundries and moved to the Channel Islands, where she created another laundry company.