Kathryn Brown Gilbert: A Trailblazing L&N Railroad Woman Employee from Bowling Green, KY

Photo: Kathryn Brown Gilbert - Courtesy of Glenda White

Kathryn Brown Gilbert: A Trailblazing L&N Railroad Woman Employee from Bowling Green, KY

In the rich tapestry of railroad history, certain individuals stand out as trailblazers, defying gender norms and leaving an indelible mark on the industry. Kathryn Brown Gilbert, a resident from Bowling Green, KY, is one such luminary.

Kathryn Brown Gilbert is a name synonymous with the L&N Railroad in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Born in 1916, Kathryn’s journey into the world of railroading began in 1942 when she took on what was described as a “regular he-man’s job” as a relief clerk. This role saw her covering the stretch from Bowling Green to Decatur, Alabama, within the L&N Railroad’s freight department. Notably, she became the second woman to work in the local freight office, breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations of women in the industry.

 Kathryn’s tenure at the L&N lasted until 1945, during a crucial period in history marked by World War II. Her role as a relief clerk was not only a testament to her capabilities but also reflected the changing dynamics of the workforce during the wartime shortage of men. The L&N, recognizing Kathryn’s efficiency and dedication, was part of a broader trend in the industry to embrace the talents of women in roles traditionally reserved for men.

During her impactful stint at the L&N Railroad, Kathryn Brown Gilbert continued her professional journey by taking on the position of Secretary at the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. Her transition from the railroad to a prominent role in the local business community underscores her versatility and adaptability. Bowling Green, with approximately 12,000 residents at the time, witnessed Kathryn’s contributions to both the railroad and the local chamber, leaving an enduring legacy.

Kathryn Brown Gilbert’s story extends far beyond her time at the L&N Railroad and the Chamber of Commerce. In 2021, at the remarkable age of 106, she stood as a living testament to resilience, adaptability, and the pioneering spirit that defines trailblazers like her.

Kathryn Brown Gilbert’s journey from the L&N Railroad to the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce exemplifies the strength and determination of women who defied societal norms to make their mark in the professional world. Her legacy extends beyond the railroad tracks and office corridors, leaving an inspirational story for generations to come. As we celebrate the achievements of women like Kathryn, let us remember and honor their contributions.

At the Historic Railpark & Train Museum stands a full exhibit panel dedicated to Kathryn Brown-Gilbert, see it proudly displayed along with other women in the railroad exhibits.

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