On this day in Arlington history, January 4, 1930: Lillian Baumbach is born. Raised in Arlington, she will become the first woman master plumber in the US. Lillian graduated from Washington-Lee High School in 1947. She learned details of the trade working summers in her father's Arlington plumbing business started in 1928 and tagging along on service calls. She made well-known her father’s family plumbing business Baumbach Plumbers of Arlington.
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. Women plumbers were so unusual at the time that the Washington Evening Star dubbed her ``the pretty plumber." The Arlington native attracted national attention that led to newspaper (including this cartoon from the Boston Herald) and magazine articles and radio and television appearances including “What’s My Line.” She was said to have “scorned dolls for monkey wrenches when she was six years old and by the time she was 12 she was a regular plumber’s helper on jobs with her dad.” 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. She sent them the photo (above) of herself holding a wrench over her shoulder)
She married George W. “Bill” Jacobs and lived with him and their two daughters for 26 years. She became President of her father’s plumbing business until her retirement in 1989 when she moved to North Carolina. She died in 2000.
Lillian Baumbach Jacobs, an Arlingtonian, broke new ground for women by opening up a traditional man’s field. Her story was used for years by the industry to recruit new plumbers.