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The Pretty Plumber

Today, January 4th is the birthday of Lillian Baumbach, the first woman on record to earn a Master Plumber’s license. In an era when most women aspired to work as a nurse or a secretary and only until they had their first baby, Lillian earned her Master Plumber’s license, became a remodeling estimator and ultimately helped her father build his company into a multi-million dollar enterprise.

Her favorite interviewer according to her younger brother William was Walter Cronkite. She was on the game show What’s My Line, and she was the pin up girl for an Infantry company stationed in Korea during the conflict. She received fan mail and marriage proposals from all over the world, so much that the US Postal Service forwarded letters addressed only to “The Pretty Plumber” to Lillian’s office at Baumbach Plumbing.

Her plumbing skills coupled with the fact that she was dainty and pretty, with sparkling eyes and a head full of dark curls, captured the imagination of the nation. The many photographs and news stories posted online at can attest to the truth of that.

We lost Lillian to Leukemia on January 31, 2000, but we still feel her influence. Every woman who picks up a wrench and earns her living in the trades can look to Lillian and say, if she could do it in the times she faced then I can do it now.

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