Lady Rachel MacRobert, chosen by Hayaatun Sillem
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Lady Rachel MacRobert was born Rachel Workman in Massachusetts in 1884. She was sent to study in the UK where she developed a passion for geology, and attended the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Geological Society despite women not being allowed. She became Lady Rachel MacRobert through marriage to Alexander MacRobert in 1911. He was thirty years her senior and a successful businessman. When he was knighted Lady MacRobert refused to attend the ceremony saying "I will bow to no man." They had three sons who all died whilst flying, two of whom in active service. In response Lady MacRobert paid for a plane, 'MacRobert's Reply' to be commissioned in their memory. She ran her husband's businesses in India after his death and bred cattle on the family estate in Aberdeenshire. Choosing Lady Rachel MacRobert is the Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dr Hayaatun Sillem. When Hayaatun discovered that the MacRobert Award for engineering was named after a woman she began looking into her life and discovered an independent visionary who was once described as "charmingly volcanic." But it's her response to the loss of her three sons which Hayaatun admires most, praising its defiance and also how it seized agency from a situation that could have easily made her a victim. Gordon Masterton from Edinburgh University and Trustee of The MacRobert Trust joins the discussion and says after a recent speech to launch an AI version of Lady MacRobert young women came up to him and said "Who would have thought she was such a badass." Presenter: Matthew Parris Produced by Toby Field for BBC Studios Audio
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