Wherever you find Engineers, you will hear the Engineer’s Hymn. Lady Godiva is popular with students at most North American universities and although the text may vary slightly from place to place, the spirit of the song is always the same. Recently, changes have been made to the words in order to eliminate any objectionable phrases.
Godiva is not a fictitious woman of whom the Engineers sing, but a true historical figure who actually rode through the streets of Coventry, England in the nude to save the townsfolk from their burdensome taxes.
Godiva was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia and the Lord of Coventry. Leofric ruled over the village with a severe hand and demanded excessive taxes from the villagers. Godiva was sympathetic and pleaded with her husband to reduce taxes. Thinking to silence her pleas, the Earl declared he would lower taxes only after she had ridden through the market square at noon, mounted on a white horse, and wearing no clothes. Much to his surprise, his wife made the historical ride, and true to his word, Leofric lowered the taxes.
Before Godiva made the ride, she went to the villagers and told them of her plan, requesting that they all stay behind closed doors and spare her of their stares. One person, however, a tailor by the name of Tom, peered from behind the shutters of his shop. It is from this event that the term “Peeping Tom” has its origin.
Although Godiva passed in 1080, she is still honored by the people of Coventry every year. The important aspects of this legend are that Godiva took it upon herself to stand up for a group of oppressed people, and secondly, that the people recognized her efforts, and instead of lining the streets to leer, obeyed her wishes and stayed inside.
While Lady Godiva may have been chosen as the unofficial “patron saint” of engineering, it is important that the entire story is known. Engineers have always been leaders and we must take an active stance in fighting ignorance and injustice.