Graduating from St Aidan’s in 1941, Marjorie Winifred Davenport helped blaze the way for Australian women in the field of engineering.
Known by her middle name of Winifred, she began her career as a cadet draughtswoman at ship builder Evans Deakin while studying civil engineering at night at, what was then, the Queensland Technical College.
In 1950 Winifred joined the Harbours and Marine Department as an associate engineer and continued working there until retirement in 1989, earning an Order of Australia for services to the engineering industry in 1990.
But Winifred didn’t think she was anything special. The St Aidan’s scholarship recipient never felt discriminated against as a woman in the industry. She handled all of the manual work (crawling over machinery for inspections) with no problems. She also learned to design rivet holes for ships in the days before welding. '
Her 47-year career in Queensland as a maritime engineer saw Winifred assisting in the designs of the Manly Boat Harbour and the government survey ship Trigla. Winifred gained her Master Mariner’s Certificate through her work in the engine rooms of Moreton Bay cruise vessels SS Koopa and MV Mirimar. She also authored the book, 'History of the Harbours and Marine Department', which traced the movement of shipping in Brisbane’s harbour from 1845.
Winifred earned a Bachelor of Engineering and became the first woman to be granted Corporate Membership of the Institution of Engineers and later, the Royal Institute of Naval Architects. Pamela Davenport, also a former St Aidan’s student, fondly remembered her elder cousin as an affectionate, determined young woman with a particular passion for mathematics and animals.
“My earliest memories of Winifred go back to her years at St Aidan’s School in Corinda where she kept a close eye on my safety and wellbeing and always thought of me as her young cousin – even at my increasingly advanced age,” Ms Pamela Davenport said with a smile.
Winifred passed away after a long illness on 13 May 2003 at the age of 80.