Catherine Anselm Gleason was born in Rochester during 1865 and has been heralded as the first lady of gearing and the ideal business woman.
Kate's career began at age eleven when she started helping her father, William, in his machine shop after her older half brother died from typhoid. By fourteen, Kate was the company bookkeeper and in 1884 she became the first woman to enroll in the Mechanical Arts program at Cornell University.
When Kate left for Cornell, her father hired someone to replace her in the business, but the firm began struggling financially. Her father couldn't afford to pay the salary of the man he had hired to replace Kate, and she was called home to help at Gleason Works.
By 1890, Kate was the Secretary-Treasurer and soon led sales and finance within the business. In 1893, the tool business dried up in the US and Kate decided to expand her sales region to include the European market. After a two month voyage, she arrived in Europe where she secured orders from England, Scotland, France, and Germany. This trip was among the first attempts by any American manufacturer to globalize their business.
Kate resigned from Gleason Works in 1913, and the next year was the first woman in New York to be named Receiver in Bankruptcy, serving as such for the Ingle Machine Company in East Rochester. Also in 1914, Kate was unanimously elected to membership in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers as its first woman member. In 1917, Kate became the President of the First National Bank of East Rochester, another first for an American woman.
Years later, Kate left Rochester for business ventures in California and South Carolina, travelling extensively and eventually purchased an estate in France.
Kate Gleason serves as an inspirational role model for the engineering students studying within the RIT College named in her honor. The Kate Gleason College of Engineering (KGCOE) is committed to producing engineering graduates who provide innovation in product development, becoming leaders in the global engineering community.