Olive Dennis was the first woman to become a member of the American Railway Engineering Association.
One of the first women to obtain a Civil Engineering degree from Cornell University, she found it difficult to find a meaningful job after her graduation solely on the basis of her gender. She strived hard and eventually began working for the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad.
Since half of the railroad’s passengers were women, it was felt that a woman would be better suited to handle engineering upgrades in service. Thus Olive Dennis was made the railroad’s first “service engineer” and assigned the responsibility of improving passenger service.
In a career spanning over three decades, she worked hard to make traveling as comfortable as possible for the passengers. A creative person with an innovative bent of mind, she implemented several new concepts including the railroad’s famous blue and white Colonial dining car china. She also played a major role in making the seats more attractive and comfortable for the travelers. In addition, she suggested that there should be stewardesses, nurses, and other helpers on board to provide services when required. During the World War II, she served as a consultant for the Federal Office of Defense Transportation.