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Meet the First Woman Master Plumber: Lillian Baumbach

Who Was the “Pretty Plumber”?

Lillian Ann Baumbach may not be a household name, but her impact on the plumbing industry and the example she set for young women everywhere will not soon be forgotten. In 1950s America, where very few women worked in the plumbing industry (and those who did were secretaries and clerical workers), she became the first woman to get her Master Plumber’s license. Her accomplishment garnered attention from around the world, and fan mail began pouring in - some of it addressed only to “The Pretty Plumber.” 

The Journey To Becoming the First Female Master Plumber

woman Born in 1930, Lillian was the daughter of Louise and William J. Baumbach. Her father’s plumbing company, W.J. Baumbach Plumbing and Heating, was Lillian’s door into the plumbing world. From the age of 12 until she finished high school, she spent her summers going on jobs with her father and learning the ins and outs of the plumbing trade, eventually becoming a journeyman plumber.

In 1951, after completing her official apprenticeship, she took the master plumber’s exam and aced it on the first try. She was only 21 years old at the time and was the only woman in the class. Of the six men who took the test with her, only two passed.

Letters From All Over

letters Since she was the only woman on record ever to earn the title of Master Plumber in the United States, news outlets jumped at the chance to interview her and take her picture. The fact that she was a petite and beautiful young woman made the story all the more sensational, and before long, her name became internationally known. After radio and television appearances came the letters.
Hundreds of fans wrote to her, mostly American troops stationed overseas (and even soldiers from other countries), aspiring young plumbers, and smitten romantics. She was flattered by the attention but handled it with remarkable grace and ease. She even remained pen pals with many of her fans after her time in the spotlight had ended.

Lillian’s Legacy - Women In Plumbing Today

Lillian Baumbach was a true pioneer in the male-dominated world of plumbing. By demonstrating spectacularly that a woman could roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty alongside the men, she opened the door and served as inspiration for young women in every profession. Even after she married, she stayed on at her father’s company as the service manager and treasurer.

While the plumbing industry is still made up of mostly men, there is a growing number of female contractors, managers, and business owners in the field. In 1987, 36 years after Lillian became a master plumber, a young woman named Adrienne Bennett became the first African American woman to acquire a master plumber’s license. Bennett is now the owner and CEO of a highly successful contracting company. 

Success stories like Bennett’s would surely not be possible without the work of Lillian Baumbach. The examples these women have set will undoubtedly influence girls and women of all professions for years to come.

About Sewer Squad Plumbing & Drain Services

Sewer Squad has been providing Toronto, Ontario, with expert plumbing care for over 6 years. They offer unparalleled warranties, financing, and up-front pricing. They also offer 24/7 emergency service with no after-hours fee.