Industrial Leader

Rebecca (Pennock) Lukens grew up in a prosperous Quaker family. The family-owned a factory that made barrel hoops and nails. Rebecca would often work with her father at the factory, learning the basics of the business. When she married, her husband leased the factory from her father.

Rebecca’s mother never approved of her daughter’s involvement in the business. As Rebecca was expecting her sixth child, her husband died suddenly and Rebecca took over the operation of the business against her mother’s wishes. The challenge she faced was that the business was nearly bankrupt.

Rebecca’s mother insisted that the lease payments continue. This action made the survival of the business more perilous. Fortunately, the business partners of the factory were more supportive. She was given credit and an extension on the contracts for products.

When the nation faced a great recession in 1837, Rebecca’s Quaker faith would not let her lay off the workers. Instead, she used this time to renovate the factory. By the 1840s, the factory was highly profitable.

Rebecca gradually turned over the factory to family members who renamed the factory Lukens Iron and Steel. The company remained in the family until it was sold to Bethlehem Steel in 1998.

Rebecca is generally considered to be the first woman CEO of an industrial company. Hidden heroes are often thrust into situations where they can employ talents that may not have been available to them in normal times. Rebecca had been prepared to run the factory by her father, but it’s unlikely that she would have been given a chance to display that talent if her husband had not died suddenly. Often we don’t want to accept the talent of hidden heroes based on their biology or other factors. You can only imagine how many more hidden heroes there might have been.

            * * *

“Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”  William Shakespeare

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.