Born and raised in Newark’s Chinatown Aileen Fong Shane was an early woman engineer, graduating from Newark College of Engineering in 1946, at just age 19. In a 1947 article in the Star Ledger she was called an “outstanding female student” who graduated “near top of her class.. one of few woman mechanical engineers in the history of the school”. She said she wanted to help in the reconstruction of China.
Aileen grew up in Newark’s Chinatown, at age 3 she is listed on the census in a lodging house at 191 Mulberry St with many other Chinese. Later, in 1940 she lived at 222 Elm St. She was a member of East Side High class of June 1943, where she was listed “Class Giggler”.
After graduating the College of Engineering, she got her MS in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. She participated in the founding of the Society of Women Engineers and worked for Curtiss-Wright and Reaction Motors for many years, working on engines, airplanes and the space program, including the engine cooling system for the first North American X-15 rocket plan which is on display at the Smithsonian. She also worked at Howmet Corporation and Picatinny Arsenal, before retiring in 1991.
She also served as substitute teacher and Girl Scout leader, while raising her children. She was featured in a 1987 book “What Is Ethnicity?”
From her obituary:
Mrs. Shane had a big heart, and wanted the best for humanity. A first-generation Chinese-American, she had a lifetime of experience with prejudice and discrimination. She wanted others facing similar challenges to be heard, and to be aided. Her life touched many people, and she had an unquenchable spirit. Although she never regarded herself as a trailblazer and never saw herself as anything special, she was unique in every way.
“More Women Invade Engineering Field” Star Ledger Mar 2, 1947