Edwina Justus

Edwina Justus (1943-) is a African-American trailblazer engineer who is best known for being Union Pacific's first black female train engineer.

At a young age, Edwina's role as a change-maker began when she became the first African-American girl to attend Brown Park School, and she was the only person of colour in the entire school.


In search of better opportunities, Edwina applied for a job at Union Pacific. After her application was denied and she enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. When she applied at Union Pacific for the second time, her application was a success. However, the work environment wasn't supportive. As both a black woman and a female engineer, Edwina endured racial slurs and the belief that she couldn't do good work as a woman. But she was not deterred. She used her wit and performance to excel in her career. She applied for the position as a locomotive engineer and was accepted. At the age of 34, she became a qualified engineer, becoming the first woman, and the first African-American woman locomotive engineer in the country.


Many people historically and still today consider engineering to be a masculine field. Edwina Justus is a woman who pioneered in a male-dominated field and was comfortable expressing her feminine self. Her colleagues called her “the fashion plate” as she was always conscientious about her hair, makeup and fashion choices, including wearing skirts and heels in the cab.


If you ask somebody what an engineer looks like, think of Edwina Justus, a woman who defies the norm.

© 2017-2018

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