March 26, 2021
Caterpillar has long been a frontrunner in promoting diversity. We believe that by leveraging diverse experiences, backgrounds and cultures in an inclusive environment, we enable individuals to achieve their fullest potential while driving business success.
A strong pipeline of female and diverse leaders expands our company’s capabilities and results in increased innovation and idea sharing about how to solve today’s complex business challenges. Here are a few of the women who helped build our company into what it is today.
Four young girls dubbed, “Bloomer Girls,” are shown here operating a Holt combine in 1885.
In 1885, Orra and Lillian Dowell, Gertie Sawyer, and Nellie Packwood became the first documented female operators of Holt products. Indeed, women operators would have been rare in that day. According to Lee Fosburgh, Caterpillar historian and manager of Caterpillar Heritage Services, the girls were featured on Holt advertising flyers, operating a Holt combine.
According to company documents, in 1950, Orra Dowell recalled, “In 1895 Jim Decker from Holt came to our ranch with a combine harvester from Stockton. He operated it around the county on a rental basis with my father driving the horses. Decker noticed how easily we Dowell girls handled horses and decided it would be a good demonstration for farmers to see an all-girl harvester crew operate his machine. A lot of farmers of that day hesitated buying these machines, thinking them too hazardous to operate. Father gave his consent, and mama made four pairs of bloomers from black calico for my sister and me and two neighbor girls – Gertie Sawyer and Nellie Packwood. All four of us knew horses and machinery. We went out the next morning, took over the big machine and operated it until noon. No trouble at all.”
Lois Garton was Caterpillar’s first woman chemist.
Sherril West was Caterpillar’s first female vice president.
Elda Howe joined Caterpillar’s two-year machine shop training program in the late 1960’s.
Caterpillar’s first civil engineer, Patsy Miller’s biography featured in a company publication circa 1951.