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date: 19 October 2019

Pullinger [married name Martin], Dorothée Aurélie Mariannefree

  • Georgine Clarsen

Pullinger [married name Martin], Dorothée Aurélie Marianne (1894–1986), automobile engineer and businesswoman, was born on 13 January 1894 at St Aubin-sur-Scie, Seine Inférieure, France, the eldest of the eleven children of Thomas Charles Pullinger (1867–1945), engineer, and his wife, Aurélie Berenice, née Sitwell (1871–1956). She moved to England with her family at the age of eight and attended Loughborough high school, Leicestershire, where she passed the Oxford local examination as a junior candidate in 1909.

Pullinger was of the generation of women who grew up in the years of the women's militant suffrage campaigns, and reached maturity during the First World War. For many of those women organized political campaigns, or the notion of a sex war between women and men, were not appealing, and they were inclined to conceive of women's advancement in terms of opportunities to achieve economic and professional equality; these, women could quietly exploit rather than publicly demand. The desire to become an engineer was one such feminist aspiration, and was first expressed by some middle-class women in the years leading up to the First World War. It received a tremendous boost during the war from the mass production of armaments in factories where women supplied a large part of the labour force. The Women's Engineering Society, of which Pullinger was a founding and lifelong member, was established in 1919 to maintain and develop women's inroads into engineering during those years.

Like those of many women who were able to enter the profession at that time, Pullinger's father was an engineer, and helped to secure her first job in the field. She began in 1910 as a junior in the drawing office of the Scottish car manufacturer, Arrol-Johnson, where her father had just been taken on as the manager of their Paisley works. He had extensive workshop and management experience in the early cycle and automobile manufacturing industry in England and France, and had travelled to the United States to observe car factory design and the mass production methods in Detroit. A multi-storeyed glass and ferroconcrete factory was built under his direction for Arrol-Johnson at Heathhall, Dumfries. It was the first such factory in the United Kingdom, and embodied some of those new principles. The First World War began before the factory was in full production, and the company switched from manufacturing automobiles to producing aero engines for the Ministry of Munitions. Dorothée Pullinger worked for approximately four years at the Paisley works, becoming familiar with all aspects of manufacturing, including foundry work, and she was for a time forewoman of the core shop. When the war broke out she was appointed manager of women newly employed by Vickers at Barrow in Furness, making high explosive shells, eventually becoming responsible for 7000 female munitions workers there. She was appointed MBE in recognition of that work in 1920.

Pullinger's father oversaw the construction of a second modern 'daylight' factory for the Arrol-Johnson company near Kirkcudbright in 1916. The factory was conceived of not just as a munitions factory staffed by women for the duration of the war, but as an engineering college for ladies. The company aimed to attract educated young women, and set up a structured apprenticeship system to train women who wished to take up engineering as a profession while producing aero engine components for the Heathhall works. After the war, as Galloway Motors Ltd, and with Dorothée Pullinger as one of the directors and managers, the factory produced a light car for Arrol-Johnson, the Galloway, with a largely female workforce. The venture failed, and the factory closed in 1923; production of the Galloway was transferred to the Heathhall works until the demise of Arrol-Johnson in 1928. Dorothée Pullinger remained with the company and was a sales representative for southern England in 1925–6. She drove Galloway roadsters in the Scottish Six Day Car Trials in the early 1920s, winning the cup in 1924. On 9 October 1924, in Dumfries, she married Edward Marshall Martin (1895–1951), at that time a ship's purser on SS Naldera, and son of Edwin Lewis Martin, naval architect, and his wife, Althea Lillywhite, née Beagent. They had two children, Yvette (b. 1926) and Lewis (b. 1931).

By the mid-1920s, in addition to the poor showing of the Scottish motor industry, Pullinger was encountering considerable opposition to a woman's remaining in the engineering side of the car industry. With her husband in the late 1920s she therefore set up the White Service Laundries Ltd at Croydon, with new American steam laundry machinery, claiming that 'I thought washing should not be doing men out of a job' (unpublished family biography). At its height the business had seventeen shops in the London area for receiving laundry. The business was sold in 1946. During the Second World War Pullinger worked with the Nuffield Group in Birmingham, advising them on women's wartime employment issues. She was the only woman appointed to the Ministry of Production's industrial panel. She was part of the wartime committee on post-war problems of the Conservative and Unionist Party which produced the report Looking Ahead: Work and the Future of British Industry.

Pullinger settled in Guernsey in 1947, where she built and established Normandy Laundries in 1950. Her husband died in 1951. In later years she travelled extensively, visiting relatives in Australia, Canada, and the United States. She died of old age at la Borne Milliaire, rue à l'Or, St Peter Port, Guernsey, on 28 January 1986. She was survived by her two children.


  • private information (2004) [family]
  • unpublished family biography, written by subject, priv. coll.
  • m. cert.
  • d. cert.


  • priv. coll., family


  • photographs, priv. coll.