Alice Jacqueline Perry, an Irish native born, is understood to be the first woman to graduate with a degree in engineering in Ireland or Great Britain. In a field dominated by her male counterparts, she graduated with a first class honours degree in Civil Engineering from Queen's College Galway (now NUI, Galway) in 1906.
Born on 24 October 1885 in Wellpark, Galway, Alice Perry was one of five daughters of James and Martha Perry. Engineering was the family trade: her father was the county surveyor for West Galway and her uncle, John Perry, was both a Fellow of the Royal Society and a noted mechanical engineer. Together, they co-founded the Galway Electric Light Company.
As she studied for her degree, Alice Perry gained significant practical experience acting as her father’s personal assistant as he carried out his duties. After her father died, she was appointed temporary county surveyor by Galway County Council and she held this post for six months. Her work then took her all over these county inspecting roads, walls, piers, footpaths, bridges, courthouses and county buildings.
In 1908, Perry moved to London where she joined the Civil Service, as a “Lady Factory Inspector”. The major requirement of this job was the monitoring of employment laws for women working in industrial factories. In 1921, she left the factory inspectorate and in 1923 went to Boston, USA. Although she had planned to stay for a short period, she remained there for the rest of her life, working as poetry editor for Christian Science periodicals and also as a Christian Science practitioner.