The First Woman Master Plumber, Lillian Baumbach

The First Woman Master Plumber, Lillian Baumbach

All About “The Pretty Plumber”

Many people aren’t familiar with Lillian Baumbach and her legacy. They may have heard her name in passing as a bit of trivia about the first female master plumber. The fact is that she was way ahead of her time. Even today, women plumbers are considered a rarity. Still, back when Lillian Baumbach first became a master plumber, women in the male-dominated plumbing profession were unheard of, aside from secretaries in the plumbing offices, taking calls, and making appointments. So, read on to find out all about the first female master plumber.

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Getting To Be the First Female Master Plumber

Lillian Baumbach

There was no easy road for Lillian Baumbach to become the first woman master plumber. However, it helped that she grew up around plumbing. Her father, William J. Baumbach, ran a plumbing company, W.J. Baumbach Plumbing and Heating, in Arlington, VA. She started her career as a plumber unofficially, tagging along on service calls, learning the trade, and developing a love for plumbing.

In 1951, when she was only 21, she took the master plumbers exam with six men and passed with flying colors. She did better than most of the others who took the test – in fact, only two of the others taking the test passed. The news took notice of her because she was the first recorded female master plumber in the Arlington area.

As far as anyone could tell, she was the first recorded female master plumber in the entire country. Her looks surely helped make her newsworthy, as she was a pretty and demure young woman working a “man’s job” during a time when a women’s career options were limited to nurse, homemaker, or secretary.

The Fan Letters

It didn’t take long for people around the world to take notice of the pretty master plumber. Pretty soon, letters started pouring in, mainly from men around the country (and the world) who were enamored with the trailblazing woman. The letters ranged from marriage proposals to people asking for advice about plumbing issues in their homes! It is said that she kept correspondence with over 250 men and women from around the world at the height of her popularity.

The Korean war was on at the time, and Lillian Baumbach received 75 letters from an infantry company. They elected her as their official pin-up girl. But the letters from her fans weren’t all. She was also interviewed by the famous Walter Cronkite, an experience she later said was her favorite interview.

Lillian Baumbach’s Legacy

In a time when women were only expected to work until they had their first child, Lillian Baumbach was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. Pictures of her, slender and pretty, holding a plumber’s wrench, captured the imagination of people around the world, both men and women, plumbers, and those of other professions.

While plumbing isn’t necessarily an industry dominated by women, there are many woman-owned plumbing companies throughout the country. It’s no secret that Lillian Baumbach’s ascent to stardom as the first female master plumber helped pave the way for today’s women in the industry.

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