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Meet Lillian Baumbach – America's First Woman Master Plumber


Who Was “The Pretty Plumber” of Virginia?

Lillian Ann Baumbach, known to some of her fans as “the Pretty Plumber,” made history and set an example for women everywhere when she became the first woman to acquire a Master Plumber’s license in 1951. Her achievement garnered attention from all over the world and made her quite famous – she had her photo in multiple newspapers and magazines and was invited as a guest on national radio and television shows. She was even interviewed by Walter Cronkite, to her delight and amazement. And all of this at the age of 21!

In honor of Women’s History Month, here is a brief history of this smart, skilled, and gorgeous plumbing pioneer and her impact on the industry.

How She Became the First Female Master Plumber

the first female master plumber

Growing up in Arlington, Virginia as the daughter of a plumber, Lillian showed an early interest in her father’s trade. One story even has her fixing a clogged shower drain when she was only 2 years old. At 12, she accompanied and assisted her dad on his various jobs during the summer.

After graduating from Washington-Lee High School – where she had excellent grades and focused more on softball and other athletic pursuits than on home economics – Baumbach worked her way from apprentice to journeyman at her father’s company. At 21, she took the Master Plumber’s exam and passed with ease. Only she and two of the six men in the class passed.

Lillian’s Fan Letters

Following her sudden burst of fame, Baumbach began receiving letters from people all over the world. Some were from young women offering

congratulations and encouragement, but most were from adoring young men who’d seen her pictures and television appearances. Many of these latter letters were addressed to “the Pretty Plumber,” so her nickname was born.

letters from everywhere

Baumbach took her newfound popularity in stride, with grace and a sense of humor. Whether the letters were from soldiers across the globe, young apprentice plumbers, love-struck romantics, or people asking for plumbing advice, she responded to all of them and continued correspondence with several – though she politely declined the many invitations for dinner dates and overseas trips.

The Legacy of Lillian Baumbach

Lillian Baumbach married an auto mechanic named George W. Jacobs and decided to spend less time in the field. She became the service manager and treasurer of her father’s company, where she remained for years. She passed away on January 31st, 2000 – she still serves as an inspiration for countless women in the plumbing industry today.

More women than ever are entering the plumbing trade and rising from apprentices to master plumbers to managerial positions and ownership. There are numerous woman-owned plumbing companies across the country, some passed down from father to daughter in the style of Baumbach, and others built from the ground up. 

Lillian Baumbach would surely be proud to see the rising number of today’s women breaking down gender barriers and growing their small plumbing businesses into some of the most successful and respected plumbing companies in the country.

About Korte Does It All.

The family-owned Korte Does It All has been handling the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC needs of Fort Wayne, IN since 1965. With their A+ BBB Rating, 5-star customer reviews, and community involvement efforts, Korte is a trusted and beloved industry leader. They offer 24-hour emergency service, competitive pricing, and a money-saving membership plan. Call now for expert plumbing service!

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