Catherine Anselm ‘Kate’ Gleason
Kate Gleason got her first taste of business at 11 years old, working for her father at family machine-tool company Gleason Works. She developed an avid interest in mechanical engineering and mechanical arts at both Cornell University and Sibley College of Engraving & Mechanics Institute (now Rochester Institute of Technology) in Rochester, N.Y. Partnering with her father, Gleason helped design a revolutionary machine that efficiently and inexpensively produced beveled gears. The machine caught the attention of Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford who, with seemingly good intentions, referred to the invention as “the most remarkable machine work ever done by a woman.”
Gleason led the sales and finance divisions of the business for more than 10 years and played a vital role in Gleason Works’ success as a leading U.S. producer of gear-cutting machinery. She also initiated and led efforts to expand Gleason’s services internationally. Considering that today the company’s global sales division accounts for more than two-thirds of the business, her foresight was remarkable.
When the president of First National Bank of Rochester resigned to join the military during World War I, Gleason temporarily became the first female president of the bank.
After the war, she invented a new method of pouring concrete — and took on the construction world. Gleason began selling low-cost concrete-box houses in East Rochester that became a model for several future suburban developments.
She also became the first female member at both the American Concrete Institute and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.