It’s such a good idea that it needs to be copied.

Bessie Marie Dempsey: 

Lego created the Women of NASA Lego set earlier this year to shed light on women who have played historical and critical roles in the space program. The set with five Lego figurines aims to promote women whose contributions are unknown or underappreciated. It also encourages a new generation of girls to explore the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, commonly known as the STEM professions.

Science writer Maia Weinstock came up with the concept in the Lego Ideas competition, which allows fans to submit ideas that potentially could be turned into Lego sets.

But this is a Boeing town — and a Funko town. So which women historical and present day should be immortalized with Funko figures?

This is where Bessie came into my blog. She was much more than a pretty face and gifted student. A well-rounded education gave her many options in life. Cornish School of Fine Arts produced many successful people.

The book “Trailblazers: The Women of the Boeing Company” offers an excellent summary of the women who pioneered aerospace for the company.

Bessie Hall Dempsey (1914-1971) moved to Seattle as a child, with her mother, seamstress Jessie Hall, and her older sister, Irma Beatrice Hall. The sisters attended Broadway High School and the Cornish School of Fine Arts. Bessie and Irma Hall studied classical ballet, folk dance, music theory, composition and choreography. Bessie was an excellent student and also studied physics, mathematics and foreign languages. In the late 1920s Bessie and Irma began performing as the Hall Sisters in northwest vaudeville theaters. Later, Bessie Hall pursued a solo career in San Francisco and Los Angeles performing in ballets, nightclubs and movies under the stage name Yvonne St. Clair. In 1935 she married Lee Dempsey, former first baseman for the New York Giants. Their son Herbert Lee (Mark) Dempsey was born in 1936. Bessie Dempsey later earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering, moved to Seattle and worked for Boeing as the company’s first female engineer. Bessie Hall Dempsey worked at Boeing for nearly 24 years. During her Boeing career, she still enjoyed local amateur performing and lived on a Seattle houseboat with her son Mark. 

Another beauty with brains comes to mind during WWII, Hedy Lamarr.

Bessie Marie Dempsey: In 1974, Boeing employed 330 women as engineers. That had grown to the thousands. The first woman to work as an aeronautical engineer at Boeing was Bessie Marie Dempsey.

She started her career as a ballerina, vaudeville dancer and Hollywood star. She was a dancer in “A Night at the Opera” with the Marx Brothers, according to “Trailblazers.”

But she gave up the entertainment career to study mechanical engineering. She graduated in the top 10 percent of her class and joined Boeing in 1948. She worked for the company for 24 years.

Bessie Hall Dempsey was born in Arkansas on October 5, 1914, as the youngest in a family of four. When her parents divorced four years later, Bessie and her sister stayed with their mother, Jessie Des Champs, and the three moved to Montana to start a new life. After Bessie’s mother remarried, they changed their last name to Hall. In 1922, the marriage ended in another divorce, so Bessie and her family moved once again–this time, to Seattle. Studying at the Cornish School of Fine Arts, Bessie pursued her passion for dance and choreography. She also performed with her sister at Northwest Vaudeville theaters, as the Hall Sisters.

In the wake of the Great Depression, they moved to California where she sought opportunities for a solo career in show business. She twirled and performed her dance routines at various night clubs, ballets, and movies throughout San Francisco and Los Angeles. With her recognition of performing fine arts shows, she started adopting to her stage name: Yvonne St. Clair. She married Lee Dempsey during her performing career and gave birth to her one and only son Herbert Lee (Mark) Dempsey a year later. In the background, Bessie continued her education studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California. While attending university, she supported her family by working full-time at the Bank of America. Unfortunately, Bessie and Lee’s marriage did not last as they were divorced in the year of 1949, Mark stayed with her and they moved away to start again.

As a multi-talented student, she studied, persisted, and enhanced her skills in physics, mathematics, and foreign languages. She earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Aerodynamics and graduated with honors, setting herself up for a career in the engineering field. Due to gender norms and low acceptance for these competitive engineering positions, she changed her name to B.M. Dempsey in an attempt to avoid the bias against womxn in engineering fields.

She moved back to Seattle in 1948 and was hired by Boeing Airplane Company as a Junior Engineer Class B, becoming the company’s first female engineer. During her time at Boeing, she received several promotions and, in 1951, became the first woman elected to Tau Beta Pi, the honorary engineering society. Bessie Hall Dempsey worked at Boeing for nearly 24 years. During her Boeing career, she still engaged in local amateur performances and lived on a Seattle houseboat with her son Mark. Sadly, at the age of 57, Bessie Hall Dempsey died in Seattle on September 16, 1971, after battling a long illness.

Bessie Hall Dempsey
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