First Woman Master Plumber
Lillian Ann Baumbach Jacobs

World Famous For Becoming the First Woman Master Plumber In 1951 At The Age Of 21

In Loving Memory of my sister Lillian Ann Baumbach Jacobs who was the First Woman Master Plumber.

Famous for becoming the first woman master plumber in 1951 at the age of 21

Lillian was William J. Baumbach first child and her mother was Louise Ann Carter (Baumbach) Lillian was born at Georgetown University hospital Washington D.C. 11:30 am January 4th 1930. She died January 31, 2000 at the age of 70.

(Note: both Louise and Lillian's middle name are spelled "ANN" which is on both of theirs birth certificate. However, Lillian's daughter Lydia middle name is spelled "ANN")

Later that same year Lillian at the age of 21 married George William Jacobs 23, September 12, 1951, they had two children, Wendy and Lydia. George died August 11, 1995. Lillian was briefly married to a Howard Lamb.

Her father William James Baumbach (my father) was an entrepreneur and an inventor, who owned W. J. Baumbach, Inc., a plumbing and heating company in Arlington Virginia.

Lillian became the pen-pal of more than 250 men in the United States and overseas, 75 letters from Korea alone included election as pin-up girl for an infantry company. Lillian was also on two television shows a New York TV program, the TV game show "What's My Line?", A radio broadcast and wrote a magazine article (Helpful Plumbing Hints for Housewives.) One of her favorite experiences was her interview with Walter Cronkite. Her life story and copies of newspaper articles from 1951 can be found here.

The "What's My Line?" panel was not able to guess her "Line" I have been looking for many years, but have been unable to find a recording of the episode that Lillian appeared on. to this day, I will watch the reruns of the TV show in hopes of finding it.

Area Now Has Girl Plumber, It Leaks Out

Times-Herald. Thursday, February 15, 1951 By Elizabeth Shelton

By Elizabeth Shelton

The Washington area has a real life Cluny Brown in its first woman master plumber, Lillian Ann Baumbach, 21, a pretty, vivacious Arlingtonian.‘ Like the fictional Cluny, Lillian is a plumber’s daughter and came naturally by her bent for running “snakes” through clogged pipes and inserting gaskets in leaky faucets.

At 12, when most little girls are having a hard time deciding between the last doll and the first cosmetic set, Lillian asked for and got a full-fledged plumber’s kit.

Tells Women It’s Tough As a plumber’s helper, or apprentice, she accompanied her dad, W.J. Baumbach,

on emergency repair calls to homes with faulty plumbing and, often, flooded basements.

She became so adept at the trade that last week Arlington officials granted the slender plumberess her master’s license.

“I match with Dad to see who does the repair work at home,” Lillian said in reply to the obvious question. Usually she handles repairs in the upstairs bathroom and he tends to the one downstairs.

Despite the ease with which she mastered the trade, usually run as a closed shop for men only. Lillian doubts that women would do well to follow her example and invade the plumbing business.

Attends Plumbing Class

“On the mechanical side, I think the work is too heavy for a woman,” she admitted, confessing that she has been acting recently as a receptionist t and diagnostician, leaving the heavier work to men she assigns to the jobs.

Lillian still attends regularly a plumbing class which her father teaches once a week at Washington-Lee High School.

She is the only girl among 20 boy students and invariably makes the highest grades.

Unlike the fictional Cluny in the Margery Sharp novel seen recently here as a movie starring Jennifer Jones, Lillian is not engaged, and has no intention of eloping with a butler or anybody else in

the immediate future.

One thing is certain, though. Her list of qualifications for a husband will skip one point usually rated high by potential wives. He need not be handy with clanging boilers and dripping spigots. Lillian will attend to all that.

Pretty Plumber Pen Pal of 250 Men

Washington Evening Star. Thursday, May 24, 1951 By Brian Bell, Jr.

Lillian Ann Baumbach, 21-year-old miss from Arlington, VA and the country’s first woman master plumber, has become the pen-pal of more than 250 men in the United States and overseas.

Pretty Lillian first hit the news in February with news of her entrance into a previously masculine profession. Since then the mail has been coming in batches.

The wire services spread Lillian’s fame-with picture-to the far corners of the glove, and she’s been receiving letters from every section of the United States, Alaska, Australia, German, Korea and France.

Arlington’s post office knows Miss Baumbach’s address without hesitating and the mail’s still pouting in. The letter carriers have even delivered envelopes addressed simply “The pretty Plumber.”

Calm About Rise to Fame.

In addition to here voluminous correspondence, Lillian has been on two local television shows, a New York TV program and a radio broadcast; has written a magazine article (Helpful Plumbing Hints for Housewives); has been a cover girl for a national plumbing magazine and has received gifts-including a light-weight wrench-from manufacturers in her trade.

Lillian, who sticks close to the service manager’s desk as her father’s plumbing business, 4147 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, and leaves the heavier work to the men, is taking her sudden rise to fame calmly.

I’ve had a lot of fun with all these letters,” she said, leafing through the many envelopes, “but Dad doesn’t seem to be impressed.

“I had to get my cousin (Virginia Smith) to help me answer all the letters. And we’re just about caught up with the latest batch.”

Lillian’s favorite letter was from a soldier in Korea, who complained the radiator in his tank leaked and wanted advice. Lillian may have her master plumber’s certificate, but her answer was strictly feminine: “Patch it with a bobby pin and some well-chewed gum.”

Rations Her Photos.

Almost all the letter-writers have asked for pictures of the attractive plumber, but Lillian has been rationing her photos with care. She’s also passed up some interesting invitations - a week end at the Naval Academy, a television show in Chicago and numerous dinner dates.

Her overseas mail - 75 letters from Korea alone-has included election as pin-up girl for an infantry company, complaints from an

Australian soldier that it’s too far from Brisbane to Arlington and a photograph request from a

Netherlands soldier in Korea. 

Other interesting correspondence has been from a lady in Colorado, who thought they were related; an ex-high school classmate in Anchorage, Alaska, a soldier in a plumbing school at Fort Belvoir, a sailor in San Diego, Calif., who wanted her opinion-and got it-on what type of heating unit to use in his house and an offer from a Sarasota (Fla.) real estate man to sell her a good site for a plumbing company.

Lillian refused an offer from a Grantville (Pa.) boy to become her plumber’s assistant.

Miss Baumbach’s social invitations have not been restricted to the mails. An Arlington woman telephoned Lillian’s father to propose a match between her son and the pretty plumber, but that was quickly vetoed.

The saddest letter Lillian received was from a man in Pennsylvania, who had sent her an earlier series of letters. His latest message was that he had found the “one girl in the world for him” and he hoped Lillian would understand if they stopped corresponding. Lillian understood.

Pretty Plumber Pen Pal of 250 Men 1951-05-24.pdf

Miss Becomes a Master

Arlington County Gets First Woman Plumber. Lillian took the master plumbing examination with six male plumbers, only two of whom passed.


By Tom Burke

A 21-year-old Arlington girl, Lillian Ann Baumbach, became the first woman licensed as a Master Plumber in Arlington County, last week. As far as can be determined Miss Baumbach, daughter of W.J. Baumbach, founder of the W.J. Baumbach Plumbing and Heating Co., of 4147 Wilson Blvd., is the only female Master Plumber in the entire Washington area.

At present Miss Baumbach, who lives at 4439 N. 15th St., is service manager of her father’s company.

An only child, the attractive Washington-Lee High School graduate, indicated an early desire to follow in her dad’s footsteps. She scorned dolls for monkey wrenches when she was six years old and by the time she was 12 was a regular plumber’s helper on jobs with her dad.

At 4 p.m., today Miss Baumbach will be awarded the Master Plumber’s certificate she qualified for in an examination given January 18 by Director of Inspections Norbert C. Melnick. County Manager A.T. Lundberg will award the certificate. Miss Baumbach took the examination with six male plumbers, only two of whom passed.

Her only other talent, Miss Baumbach admits, is her fishing ability. She declared that she loves fishing on the Chesapeake Bay on her father’s motor boat at every opportunity.

While a student at W-L High, she was interested in athletics more than home economics and was a mainstay on the girls’ softball team.

She has attended a course conducted by her father at the High School one night a week for the past several years. It is a plumbing course designed to train future Master Plumbers.

Cutest Master Plumber Plans Joint Life with Auto Repairman

The Evening Star DC August 01, 1951

Miss Baumbach To Become Bride Of Arlington Man

The area’s most charming master plumber soon will put down her monkey wrench long enough to pool talents for life with an automobile serviceman.

Miss Lillian Anne Baumbach, 21, who made national news in February when she qualified as a master plumber, will marry George William Jacobs, 23, of 831 North Woodrow Street, Arlington, on September 12.

Their engagement was announced by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William J. Baumbach, 4439 North Fifteenth Street, Arlington.

Comely Miss Baumbach found herself an overnight celebrity when news of her unusual proficiency leaked out. Newspapers interviewed her, television programs featured her and hundreds of admirers sent her fan mail.

But Mr. Jacobs said his affection long pre-date his future wife’s fame, for it was in 1948 that they met. It just happened that a road detour sent Mr. Jacobs by her home and she was sitting outside, and he became interested. The rest was easy.

Miss Baumbach doesn’t expect to quit plumbing after the happy event. She will continue to work at her father’s Arlington shop.

Mr. Jacobs works in the service department of Liberty Auto Body, Inc.,

2115 M Street N.W. He is a graduate of Massanutten Military Academy and attended Virginia Military Institute and William and Mary College.

The wedding will take place at the First Presbyterian Church, Wilson Boulevard and Glebe Road, Arlington.

Lady Plumber Began at Age 2

By Louise Daniels

When you’ve been doing something since you were two years old, you’ve been at it for quite a while, even if you haven’t turned 30.

That’s the way with Lillian Jacobs. She’s been a plumber as far back as she can remember, and maybe farther.

As well as anyone around seems to know she is the only lady plumber in the country master plumber, that is. And she unplugged her first stopped-up pipe before her third birthday party.

IT DIDN’T matter that she didn’t have a license because only one person knew about it at the time. An aunt was visiting her family, the W.J. Baumbach. Lillian and her aunt were home alone one day when the shower drain acted up Quick as a wink the toddler found the “plumber’s friend” and fixed the clogged pipe good as new.

“I’ve been at it ever since, “Mrs. George W. Jacobs, who is the same Lillian a few years later, said the other day as she bounced a cherubic three-month-old daughter on her knee in her home at 4839 Arlington Blvd. The daughter, incidentally, isn’t even an apprentice plumber-yet.

Lillian Baumbach Jacobs’ career started logically enough because her cousins and uncles and father-he owns the W.J. Baumbach plumbing firm--all are plumbers and she heard lots of plumber talk around the house.

HER FATHER and Lillian have always been great pals. She was his small shadow wherever he went in the early days. At first as an observer - where her nuisance value must have been considerable-she went on jobs with him. Later she served her formal apprenticeship, then moved on to journey-man and later passed her written examination and became a master plumber.

From the very first Lillian was looking far ahead, even beyond today. In case there ever was need for it she wanted to be able to step into

her father’s boots and head the Baumbach firm. This she could only do if she had a master plumber’s license.

When she began, she said, few people guessed that she was a girl. “I always dressed like a boy with overalls and my hair tucked under a cap,” she explained. Looking at her today it’s hard to think that even the distraught owner of a gushing pipe could have been so deceived. She is petite, feminine and extremely pretty.

THE WORST trial in a plumber’s life, Mrs. Jacobs remembered is the customer who calls in the middle of the night. It’s usually a leaky faucet that has gotten on someone’s nerves. Lillian Jacobs is still amused by the woman who phoned her one day and said that her diamond ring had fallen down the washstand drain. Mrs. Jacobs gave her full instructions about not running the water until she could get there. “Oh”, the customer explained, “it happened six months ago.”

Lillian Jacobs hasn’t been going out on plumbing jobs for several years now. She spends her time working in the office of the firm. For a while she was the buyer for all their construction jobs. “It is the office work that interests me most,” she said, “but I had to learn the business from the ground up.” 

George Jacobs, her husband, attended Virginia Military Institute and William and Mary College. He is an auto body repair man and never has been a plumber. Wendy Joy is their 4-year-old daughter and Lydia Anne is the baby. When Lillian Jacobs isn’t caring for her family or working in the office of her father’s firm she is apt to be sewing or knitting. She likes hand work but prefers big work like slip covers. Maybe it reminds her of the old days when things had to be cut to fit too-only not in glazed chintz.

When something goes wrong with the plumbing in their home what does Lillian Baumbach Jacobs, master plumber, do? Why, she wrings her hands and phones for a plumber, of course!

Note: this pictures was not in the newspaper, I added it.

Comic Strip First Women Master Plumber

The Boston Herald, Firday, February 16, 1951

The Romans Had Nothing on the US.. The U.S. Has It's Lady Plumbers Too!

Domestic Engineering magazine August 1953 page 96, 97 and 180 "The U.S. Has Its's Lady Plumbers Too! Vol. 182, No. 2

Magazine August 1953 page 96, 97 and 180 "The U.S. Has It's Lady Plumbers Too! This was sent to me by David G. Francis Plumbing & Heating in Norwich, NY. August 2000.

Do you think that a girl can’t be a Plumber?

Well open this brochure and let me show you different.

High School Brochure used by a local plumber to recruit new plumbers that talks about Lillian.
(see page 2) May 2005, its a PDF file. FULL SCREEN

High-School Brochure.pdf

Girl Left Dolls for Wrenches At 21 She's a Master Plumber, The Evening Star February 14, 1951 

Lillian Girl Left Dolls Evening Star 1951-02-14.pdf

Pictures of Lillian Ann Baumbach Jacobs First Woman Master Plumber.

Added 04-14-15 picture of Lillian on the phone, From the Library of Virginia's collection.

February 18, 1951

Caption: “Arlington, VA. - Lillian Ann Baumbach, the first woman Master Plumber in the Arlington area, takes a call from a customer in her capacity as service manager of the W.J. Baumbach Plumbing and Heating Co., her father’s business. Lillian, who certainly doesn’t look the part, is mighty handy with a wrench in her own right. She’s just 21 and still single.”

Family Christmas dinner picture

Bernie & Mary Baumbach, Louise Baumbach (Lillian's mother) Lillian Baumbach Jacobs, Wendy Jacobs (Lillian's daughter) Bill Jacob (Lillian's husband) December 25, 1955.  

Lillian others 2055-12-25.jpg
Lillian Baumbach Jacobs age 25 1955-12-25.jpg
Lillian Baumbach Jacobs William Jacobs 1955-12-25.jpg

Lillian's two daughters 

Wendy and Lydia

Funral Pictures

Obituaries from various newspapers and magazines

Below are two from the Washington Post, one from the Fairfax Journal, and Washington Times.

Later there will be added articles from the IMAGE a Virginia Plumbing magazine and P&M magazine (Plumbing & Mechanical) a national publication.

This obituary first appeared in The Washington Post February 03, 2000. then again on the 4th with a picture and also has the correct date of 1948 for graduation.


On January 31, 2000, from complication of Leukemia at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. Originally from Arlington, Virginia, Lillian graduated from Washington-Lee High School in 1947 and at age 21 in 1951, became the first woman in the country to hold her masters license in plumbing. She made well known the family plumbing business Baumbach Plumbers of Arlington, VA. Lillian lived in Fairfax, VA from 1963 until she relocated to Smithfield, NC in 1989. Survivors include her mother, Louise Carter Baumbach of Heathesville, VA; daughters, Wendy J. Stafford of Smithfield, NC, Lydia J. North of Burleson, TX; sister, Mary Hubbard of Front Royal, VA; brothers, William J. Baumbach II and Andrew B. Baumbach of Fairfax Station, VA; and five loving grandchildren. Her family and friends will dearly miss her. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the National Leukemia Society and blood donations to the Red Cross. Visitation 2 to 4 p.m., Thursday at JONES-ASH FUNERAL HOME, 3735 Ridge Rd., Heathsville, VA, 1-804-580-3222, where service will be held at 11 a.m., Friday. Interment Christ Church, Irvington, VA following service.

Plumber Lillian Baumbach Jacobs Dies

Noted Internationally as 1st Woman in U.S. to Receive Master's License

By Louie Estrada

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, February 4, 2000; Page B08

Lillian Baumbach Jacobs, 70, a former Fairfax resident who made international news in the early 1950s as a certified master plumber, died of leukemia Jan. 31 at a hospital in Durham, N.C.

The idea of a diminutive figure wielding a large, cast-iron pipe wrench in the labor-intensive world of plumbing was treated as a novelty and led to newspaper and magazine articles and trips to New York City for television appearances.

Born in Washington, Mrs. Jacobs grew up in Arlington, where she graduated from Washington-Lee High School. She learned details of the trade working summers in her father's Arlington plumbing business and tagging along on service calls. At 21, she passed the master plumber's exam with one of the highest scores in her class and was said to be the first woman in the country to receive a master's license.

Her story and picture were carried by wire services, and soon, she received hundreds of letters from around the world.

The correspondences, some simply addressed "Pretty Plumber," contained marriage proposals and queries on technical plumbing problems. A U.S. Army infantry company stationed in Korea during the Korean War elected her as its pinup girl.

By 1952 she was married and working in the front office of her father's plumbing shop. Instead of service calls, she mainly handled estimation work for new kitchens and bathrooms.

She lived in Fairfax for 26 years before moving to Smithfield, N.C., in 1989.

Her husband, George W. "Bill" Jacobs, died in 1995.

Survivors include two daughters, Wendy J. Stafford of Smithfield and Lydia J. North of Burleson, Tex.; her mother, Louise Carter Baumbach of Heathesville, Va.; a sister, Mary Hubbard of Front Royal, Va.; two brothers, William J. Baumbach II and Andrew B. Baumbach, both of Fairfax Station; and five grandchildren. 

Fairfax Journal Top stories Friday February 04,2000

Lillian Jacobs dies at 70

Woman remembered as first female plumber


Journal staff writer

Fairfax Journal, February 4th, 2000

Lillian Baumbach Jacobs, 70, who in the early 1950s became the first woman to hold a master's license in plumbing, died Monday at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C., from complications of leukemia.

Women plumbers were so unusual at the time that the Washington Evening Star dubbed Jacobs ``the pretty plumber," and the Arlington native attracted national attention.

The subject of local newspaper articles and television broadcasts, Jacobs also was featured on the network TV program ``What's My Line" and radio shows, according to articles published at the time. She also was the subject of a Boston Globe editorial comic strip.

During the Korean War, an Army infantry company voted Jacobs its pinup girl, and she became the pen pal of more than 250 men in the United States and overseas, most of them in the military. She enclosed in her letters a photograph of herself holding a pipe wrench, her brother William Baumbach II said.

Jacobs' father, William Baumbach, became a millionaire with his plumbing company W.J. Baumbach, Inc., which he started in 1928. Jacobs grew up helping her father practice his trade.

In 1951, at age 21, Jacobs earned an Arlington County license as a master plumber, taking the examination with six male plumbers, only two of whom passed. The license is needed to run a plumbing business.

She was president of Baumbach Plumbers from 1976 until her retirement in 1989, when she moved to Smithfield, N.C., where she lived until her death.

She is predeceased by her ex-husband, George W. Jacobs.

Survivors include her mother, Louise Carter Baumbach, of Heathsville, Va.; two daughters, Wendy J. Stafford, of Smithfield, N.C., and Lydia J. North of Burleson, Texas; a sister, Mary Hubbard, of Front Royal, Va.; two brothers, William J. Baumbach II and Andrew B. Baumbach, both of Fairfax Station; and five grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Jones-Ash Funeral Home, 3735 Ridge Road, Heathsville. Burial will follow at Christ Church, 209 Christ Church Road, Irvington, Va.


< error below "Smithfield, Va." should read Smithfield, NC.

Thursday, February 3, 2000


Page: C2


Lillian Baumbach Jacobs, 70, the country's first woman master plumber, died Jan. 31 from complications of leukemia at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C.

She was born Arlington and graduated from Washington-Lee High School in 1948.

In 1951, at age 21, she became the first woman in the country to hold a master plumber's license. She helped make the family business, Baumbach Plumbers of Arlington, well-known.

With her renown as a master plumber in the 1950s, she became the pen pal of more than 250 men in the United States and overseas. An infantry company in Korea elected her as its unofficial pinup girl.

She also appeared on the television game show "What's My Line?"

"One of her favorite experiences on-air was her interview with Walter Cronkite," said her brother, William Baumbach II.

Mrs. Jacobs lived in Fairfax from 1963 until she moved to Smithfield, N.C., in 1989.

Survivors include her mother, Louise Carter Baumbach of Heathesville, Va.; two daughters, Wendy Stafford of Smithfield, Va., and Lydia North of Burleson, Texas; a sister, Mary Hubbard of Front Royal, Va.; two brothers, William Baumbach II and Andrew Baumbach, both of Fairfax Station; and five grandchildren.

Visitation hours are from 2 to 4 p.m. today at Jones-Ash Funeral Home, 3735 Ridge Road, Heathesville, Va. A funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. tomorrow at the funeral home, with burial following at Christ Church, 209 Christ Church Road, Irvington, Va.

Lillian Baumbach Jacobs Recognized by League of Women Voters

National Women's History Month ~ March 2001 (URL is not good any longer)

In honor of National Women's History Month, the League of Women Voters of Virginia has published a brochure highlighting Virginia Women's Legacies. Among those women highlighted was Lillian Baumbach Jacobs. Here's what the brochure includes about her:

Lillian Baumbach Jacobs of Arlington made international news in 1951, at age 21, as the first woman licensed as a master plumber. A local paper dubbed her "the pretty plumber." To receive a copy of this brochure, please call the League of Women Voters of Virginia at 804-649-0333

Podcast about Lillian

three women talk about Lillian in this 44 minute Podcast by Shebuilds. It's from 12-06-2022

Learn about the life, work, struggles, and achievements of Lillian Ann Baumbach. For show notes and more information

Added 09-13-23

First Woman Master Plumber 1920, that is 31 years before Lillian?

Added 2023-09-26

While searching newspaper archives I found this published in a 1920 El Paso Tx. newspaper, it claims the first woman Master Plumber in the country is MRS. S. C. Tallman in the State of New Jersey. 

El Paso herald. (El Paso, Tex.) 1901-1931, August 06, 1920, HOME EDITION, Page 6, Image 6

This is 31 years before my sister Lillian took her Master Plumbers exam. And as of 2023, was 103 years ago.

2023-09-27 Update, I contacted the NJ State League of Master Plumbers, and the New Jersey State Board of Examiners of Master Plumbers (“Board”) and the  the State Archives in Trenton, and searched all of online currently archived newspapers I could find. Other than this one newspaper article, no other information could be found about MRS. S. C. Tallman in the State of New Jersey being a licenced Master Plumber, or any other women Master Plumber before Lillian. So it is assume what she only worked in her husbands plumbing business, but was never a licenced Master Plumber. I leave this here in the interests of transparency.

First Women Master Plumber New Jersey 1920.jpg
First Women Master Plumber New Jersey 1920.pdf