partners exhibit heading

Dora Miles and Dorothy Johnson
Women in Production




Wages in munitions plants and aircraft factories averaged more than those for traditional female jobs.  Women abandoned traditional jobs, particularly domestic service, to work in war production plants offering 40 percent higher wages. Women who entered war production were primarily working-class wives, widows, divorcees, and students who needed the money.

To the right, women operate an assembly line in ordinance facility.


women operating an assembly line 1943 poster by Alfred Treidler
Poster: "the girl he left behind" is still behind him, she's a WOW

women production workers in ammunition factories

To the left, women production workers in ammunition factories wore the Women Ordnance Workers scarf for safety and pride, 1944

An ordnance worker to the right shows her dexterity in putting
"shot" into shotgun shells by hand.

An ordinance worker putting "shot" into shotgun shells by hand

Munitions factories were mostly located in unpopulated areas because of the dangers of accidental explosion and fire. Many women were recruited to migrate from rural areas to take on the dangerous but necessary work. They often faced shortages of housing and food service establishments, and rationing of gasoline and tires made travel difficult.

To the right, women "on line" in the process of making ammunition.

Women "on line" in the process of making ammunition

Josephine Von Miklos worked in an arms plant and a shipyard. She wrote about the need for constant attention to detail:

“If your piece of steel is one-thousandth larger than it is designed to be, there will be too much powder—by a minute fraction—in the ring, and the fuse will go off too late. If your piece of steel is a thousandth too small, there will be a minute fraction of powder missing, and the fuse may go off too early. The shell will either not hit the enemy, or will hit your own lines. …There is no tolerance in tools like these. There is no tolerance in death.” (From "I Took a War Job")


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 Photo Credits (L to R): #1: Olin Corporation, #2: Library of Congress, #3-5: Olin Corporation

(c) Copyright National Women's History Museum 2007