Mary Plumb-Blade – About Chair design


This is my great aunt Mary Plumb-Blade. I never got to really know her (she died in 1994), but from everything I know about her, she was a really cool lady. She was an engineer at a time when few women were in the field, an amazing painter and a mountain climber amongst other things. These are photos I was surprised to find of her online.

Mary Blade was the only woman on the Cooper Union engineering faculty (where she initially taught drawing, mathematics and design) and one of few women on any engineering faculty in the United States.

The photo is from the book Chair–The current state of the art, with the who, the why, and the what of it. This was a 1978 book about the designs behind the chair. My great aunt’s chapter was on physical forces, sitting behavior and movement.

Apparently, my aunt did not like children at all, but she liked me, because I was quiet and liked to draw. She even bought me my first comic book. I wish I got to know her more before she passed. I grew up with her paintings all around my mom’s house, and I hope to one day be able to hang up at least one of her paintings in my home.

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