“The future of women in engineering is great,” declared a 1912 edition of Romania’s daily newspaper Minerva, reporting the news that “Miss Elisa Leonida passed the last final exam with great success, obtaining a Diploma in Engineering.”
On this day in 1887, Elisa Leonida Zamfirescu was born in the Romanian port city of Galați. After graduating with high marks from the Central School of Girls in Bucharest, she earned a baccalaureate from Mihai Viteazul High School. But when she applied to the School of Highways and Bridges, she was rejected because of her gender.
Undeterred, she applied to the Royal Technical Academy in Berlin, where one of the deans said she would be better off focusing on “Kirche, kinder, and kuche” (Church, children, and cooking). She persisted in earning her degree in three years to become one of the first woman engineer in Europe.
Becoming the first female member of A.G.I.R. (General Association of Romanian Engineers), eventually running laboratories for the Geological Institute of Romania. Zamfirescu oversaw numerous Economic Studies analyzing Romania’s supply of natural resources like coal, shale, natural gas, chromium, bauxite and copper. She was known for paying special attention to the training of staff and spending long hours mentoring young chemists.
The mother of two daughters, she also taught physics and chemistry at the Pitar Moş School of Girls as well as at the School of Electricians and Mechanics in Bucharest. In 1993, her legacy was commemorated in Romania’s capital city by naming a street in her honor.
Happy Birthday, Elisa Leonida Zamfirescu!