To the left of the image white text on a black background reads 'Lillian Ann Baumbach The First Female Master Plumber'. Beneath this in smaller white text it reads 'International Women's Day and World Plumbing Day'. To the right of the image is a photo of Lillian Ann Baumbach in overalls with a heavy wrench slung over her shoulder. She stands in front of a Baumbach truck and looks over her shoulder with the wrench resting on it towards the camera.

To mark International Women’s Day (8th March) and World Plumbing Day (11th March), we’re celebrating a woman who chose to #BreakTheBias in the plumbing industry. Allow us to introduce Lillian Ann Baumbach, the USA’s first female Master Plumber.

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Lillian Ann Baumbach, Master Plumber

Born January 4th 1930, Lillian Ann Baumbach grew up in Arlington, Virginia as the daughter of W.J. Baumbach, founder of the company W.J. Baumbach Plumbing and Heating. Constantly surrounded by plumbers, her father, uncles, and cousins all worked in the profession, little Lillian Baumbach quickly learnt the tricks of the trade. An article by Louise Daniels, published when Baumbach was 30, tells of how she fixed a shower drain at just two years old.[1]

“Lillian and her aunt were home alone one day when the shower drain acted up. Quick as a wink the toddler found the “plumber’s friend” and fixed the clogged pipe good as new.”[2]

At 12, she began working for her father as an apprentice, accompanying him to jobs, emergency call outs, and flooded basements. It was at this age that she received her first full-fledged plumber’s kit. Over the years she progressed to the positions of journey-man and then service manager. Aged just 21, she passed the exam that would make her the first woman licensed as a Master Plumber in the USA. Lillian Baumbach was one of only three people in her otherwise all-male class of twenty to pass the exam.

News of Lillian Baumbach’s unprecedented achievement made national and international news. Nicknamed the “Pretty Plumber” (many articles about Baumbach noted her attractiveness, incidentally, the physical attributes of her father and husband were not described), she was soon inundated with letters from fans in the USA, Australia, Germany, Korea, and France. Many of the letters Baumbach received were from men asking for photos and inviting her on dates; though she also received letters of congratulations and encouragement from women and some fans even wrote to request her advice and expertise. Thanks to her newfound fame, Baumbach made appearances on two local television programs, the national TV show What’s My Line? and, to her joy, was interviewed by Walter Cronkite. She also featured on a radio broadcast, posed as a cover girl for a national plumbing magazine, and published an article titled Helpful Plumbing Hints for Housewives.

On the 12th of September 1951, Lillian Ann Baumbach became Lillian Ann Jacobs when she married George William Jacobs, an autobody repairman that she met in 1948 when a road detour sent him past her house. They had two children together, Wendy Joy and Lydia Anne. Baumbach, now Jacobs, didn’t give up work after her marriage; although she stopped attending callouts, she continued to work for her father’s company in various roles including receptionist, diagnostician, and treasurer.

Lillian Ann Jacobs retired to Smithfield, North Carolina in 1989 where she lived until her death. Aged 70, she died from complications of Leukaemia on the 31st of January 2000. Her husband, George Jacobs, had died in 1995; however, she was survived by her two daughters, mother, sister, and two brothers.

Women in Plumbing Today

In Lillian Ann Baumbach’s home country, the United States of America, only 5.1% of all plumbers are female[3], while here in the United Kingdom just 1.9% of plumbers and heating engineers are women.[4] Furthermore, female plumbers in the UK are likely to earn less than their male counterparts. According to Rated People’s 2022 Home Improvement Trends Report, the average salary of a female plumber is £21 900 per annum which is 61% of the average salary (£35 979 per annum) earned by a man in the same profession.[5] This data is corroborated by Careersmart which also points out that women plumbers typically work 35 hours a week, approximately 76% of the typical 46 hour-week worked by men in the same industry.[6]

Rated People’s 2022 Trends Report goes on to highlight the challenges faced by women working in trade industries such as plumbing:  

  • 39% of women feel that some customers do not take them seriously because of their gender
  • 9% say they have been refused jobs because they’re a woman
  • 9% have suffered sexism in their workplace
  • A worrying 15% have felt concerned for their personal safety[7]

However, it’s not all bad news. Rated People also found that 46% of UK homeowners would definitely hire a tradeswoman and 43% don’t have a preference as to the gender of their tradesperson. Additionally, 29% of women said they would feel safer hiring a female tradesperson.[8] These percentages echo similar statistics highlighted by WaterSafe, which discovered that almost a third of women (31%) would prefer a female plumber. Of those women, 37% said they would feel safer with a female plumber; 12% said they felt less likely to be ripped off; 10% were more likely to trust advice from a woman; another 10% felt that a woman would not patronise them.[9]

WaterSafe also found that 59% of consumers were supportive of more women working in trade industries and attributes the disparity of male to female workers in these sectors as due to engrained biases taught at school. When asked to recall their careers advice, 31% of women polled by WaterSafe said boys were more encouraged to take up a trade and 24% felt they had been pushed into a stereotypically female role, for example, teaching, healthcare, and office work. These numbers are supported by a separate college study conducted by WaterSafe which revealed that 45% of responders thought that boys and girls are not afforded the same career opportunities. Moreover, 36% of the girls surveyed felt that boys were pushed into more manual trade roles than them.[10]

Breaking the Bias

Nevertheless, women today are following in Lillian Ann Baumbach’s footsteps by breaking the biases surrounding women and trades industries. Rated People’s 2022 Home Improvement Trends Report reveals that in 2021 admissions of women to trade apprenticeships increased by 27% with plumbing courses proving the most popular: 41% of women opted for a plumbing course.[11]  

Rated People also found that 32% of women would consider a career as a tradeswoman.[12] This number is similar to the one uncovered by WaterSafe which reported that, if given their time again, 38% of women would choose to learn a trade.[13]

Furthermore, campaigns, such as WaterSafe’s Get Girls Plumbing, have worked to champion women in plumbing. Julie Spinks, director of WaterSafe, said of the campaign

“[…] Our research suggests this [the underrepresentation of women in the plumbing industry] is as a result of gender stereotypes ingrained at a young age. Our ‘Get Girls Plumbing’ campaign looks to alleviate this by encouraging more women to dispel the myth and encourage them to join the industry.”[14]

More recently, Rated People has launched an Empowering Tradeswomen Programme designed to help women enter trades industries and build successful careers. Adrienne Minster, CEO of Rated People has commented that

“[…] With 14 of the 15 top trades recruiting significantly fewer women than men, getting more women into trades services can also play a huge role in helping to address the industry’s workforce shortage.

At Rated People, we’re making a pledge to feature more tradeswomen role models and we want to promote the incredible work being done by tradeswomen in the industry. We also want to make it easier for more women to get into the business, so we’ve launched a new programme that’s packed with benefits, help, and advice.”[15]

Further Information

At PASS, we provide a range of gas, HVAC, and plumbing equipment including flue gas analysers by leading brands such as Testo, Kane, and Anton, as well as tools by Rothenberger and Monument. Our training centre offers a selection of boiler, pressure, and steam courses. For more help and advice regarding any of our equipment or courses, please contact our team on 01642 931 329 or via our online form.


[1] Information about Lillian Ann Baumbach was gathered using the following sources:

[2] Daniels, Our Interesting Neighbors: Lady Plumber Began at Age 2

[3] Zippia, Plumber Demographics and Statistics In The US, last accessed 08 March 2022

[4] Careersmart, Plumbers and Heating and Ventilating Engineers, last accessed 08 March 2022

[5] Rated People, Home Improvement Trends Report 2022, 32, last accessed 08 March 2022

[6] Careersmart, Plumbers and Heating and Ventilating Engineers

[7] Rated People, Home Improvement Trends Report 2022, 34

[8] Rated People, Home Improvement Trends Report 2022, 38

[9] WaterSafe, Get Girls Plumbing Campaign Launched, last accessed 08 March 2022

[10] WaterSafe, Get Girls Plumbing Campaign Launched

[11] Rated People, Home Improvement Trends Report 2022, 40

[12] Rated People, Home Improvement Trends Report 2022, 40

[13] WaterSafe, Get Girls Plumbing Campaign Launched

[14] WaterSafe, Get Girls Plumbing Campaign Launched

[15] ResponseSource, 1 in 3 Women Experience Gender Discrimination In The Trades Industry, last accessed 08 March 2022