Meet “The Pretty Plumber”
Today, not everyone knows the name Lillian Baumbach. Yet, in her day, it would have been hard to avoid hearing or reading about her. As the first female master plumber, she became quite famous and popular around the globe. Photos circulated of the attractive and slender young woman casually wielding an enormous pipe wrench nearly a third of her size, capturing the attention of bachelors everywhere - she became known as “The Pretty Plumber” to many of her fans.
Much more importantly, as a tradeswoman in the 1950s, she was a pioneer and an icon for the women of her time and continues to inspire young women today - not just those in the plumbing industry but other skilled trades as well.
How She Came To Be the First Female Master Plumber
Like many women in the plumbing industry, Lillian learned the trade from her father. W.J. Baumbach owned a plumbing and heating business in Arlington, Virginia, and brought his daughter with him on many of his jobs. She showed a keen interest in plumbing from an early age, and her father welcomed the assistance. Lillian developed her skills and her love of the job during her summer breaks from school.
After high school, she became a full-time apprentice at her father’s company and worked her way to journeyman status. Finally, in 1951 - when she was 21 - she took the exam to acquire her master plumber’s license and passed with flying colors. The majority of the men in her small class didn’t even pass.
Letters From Around the World
News of Lillian’s achievement spread fast, and soon she was appearing in magazines and newspapers and being invited on to radio and television programs. She was even interviewed by the broadcasting legend Walter Cronkite, which she regarded as a great joy and high point in her life. Soon, fan mail began pouring in from across the country and overseas.
Many of the letters were from U.S. and ally soldiers fighting in the Korean War. One infantry company sent her 75 letters and named her their company’s official pin-up girl. Still, some of the letters came from young men at home asking for dates, old classmates giving their congratulations, and both men and women seeking plumbing advice from The Pretty Plumber. Lillian made a point to respond to all of her fan mail and even enlisted her cousin’s help in managing the correspondence.
The Legacy & Impact of Lillian Baumbach
After her fame had subsided and her life returned to normal, Lillian married an automotive mechanic named George Jacobs (whom she did not meet via mail). Instead of becoming a housewife like many women of her era were expected to do, she took over as treasurer and service manager of her dad’s business, making her an even bigger inspiration to working women everywhere.
Today’s plumbing industry is still vastly more populated by men than women. However, more and more women-owned plumbing businesses are being established every year and finding tremendous success in their communities. There can be no doubt that the women who ascend the ranks from apprentice to master plumber, manager, or owner have Lillian Baumbach to thank for her trailblazing role.
About AM PM Plumbing
AM PM Plumbing is a family-owned local business that has served Murietta, California, since 2010. Their licensed, insured, background-checked, and drug-tested techs are punctual, friendly, and always put safety first. AM PM offers 24/7 emergency service, extended warranties, and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Give them a call today for expert plumbing services in Murietta.
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