Born at Georgetown hospital in Washington, D.C. at 11:30pm on January 4th, 1930, Lillian A. Baumbach was known as the first woman master plumber in what was a male-only industry at the time. Lillian started taking interest in plumbing at a very young age, accompanying her father, William J. Baumbach, at several job sites across Northern Virginia when she was just nine years old. In 1951, at the age of twenty-one, she completed her first job as a master plumber and gained recognition across the country.
Lillian became a favorite pen pal among U.S. military members during the Korean War. Nearly 250 troops were in communication with her, including over 75 who were stationed on the front lines in Korea. She gained so much popularity that several infantry companies voted her as their pin-up girl and was given the nickname “The Pretty Plumber.” She was featured on two television shows, including the TV game show “What’s My Line?,” as well as a radio broadcast.
Lillian also wrote a magazine article, Helpful Plumbing Hints for Housewives, and was even interviewed by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News show.
Lillian set the stage not only for future female plumbers but also for women in several other predominantly male industries. While women represent less than 5% of today’s plumbing workforce, there is still a substantial amount of female plumbers, and the number is only rising every year. Her legacy will continue to prove that plumbing is not always “a man’s job,” especially seeing as modern-day plumbing solutions are continuing to evolve and become more efficient, eliminating much of the heavy lifting that may have once discouraged women from working in plumbing in the past.
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