We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII

We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII

Jennifer Conerly - November 10, 2017

World War II is one of the most researched and documented periods in history. With the wealth of information left behind from the era, images play an important part of what we know about what life was like during those years. War history has previously been a discipline that has been dominated by the male personalities involved in the events, but the importance of women in World War II cannot be overlooked.

With the absence of men who enlisted in the military, many jobs and occupations that were previously assumed to be a “man’s job” were now open to women. Women were more than happy to rise to the occasion, joining the workforce in a variety of skilled jobs that allowed them to show their worth and abilities and assist the war effort in their respective countries.

Women’s influence on the war effort was felt in a variety of ways: they took on professional manufacturing jobs, they became nurses, and they served in the military. One particular avenue in which women found success was in factory work. Women filled empty jobs previously occupied by men in factories that manufactured aircraft, ships, weapons, vehicles, and more. Some of the many jobs that women did in factories were riveting, painting radium on instruments, and cutting metal. Photographs from the time document these women factory workers and the jobs they performed during the war.

After the war ended, some of the men who left for the war returned home to their jobs, but many of them didn’t. World War II was the deadliest war in human history, and many of the men who left never came home. Many women were still able to remain in the workforce. Even though most of the factories shut down, women moved on to other professional jobs in the workforce, supporting themselves and their families in ways they hadn’t been able to before the start of the war.

We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Buffalo, New York. Women factory workers attending mass at nine a.m. Sunday directly after working the third shift. Photographed by Marjory Collins, April 1943. Farm Security Administration. Office of War Information photograph collection. Library of Congress.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
The hand that rocks the cradle can also rock the Axis. American women are rapidly taking their places on the industrial front. Here in this small factory, the owner’s wife operates one of the machines making dies for incendiary bombs. Unknown photographer, February 1942. Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women’s Factory War Work, England, UK, May 1941. Vera Elliot and another female war worker watch as the foreman of the workshop demonstrates the machine that Vera will be working on at this factory. Unknown photographer, 1941. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
African-American war worker, ca. 1940s. Unknown photographer. Pinterest.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Factory workers, ca. 1945. Photographed by Howard Clifford, January 1945. University of Washington Libraries. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Poston, Arizona. Adobe factory. Women workers scraping mortar into adobe frames. Photographed by Francis Stewart, January 3, 1943. National Archives and Records Administration. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Woman worker poses with finished Sten sub-machine gun. Small arms plant, Long Branch, Ontario, Canada. Photographed by Nicholas Morant, 1942. Library and Archives Canada. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Safety garb for women workers. The uniform at the left, complete with the plastic “bra” on the right, will prevent future occupational accidents among feminine war workers. Los Angeles, California. Acme. Unknown photographer, ca. 1943. Department of Labor. Women’s Bureau. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Munitions Work at a Royal Ordinance Factory in the North of England. War worker Mrs. Wilkinson breaks down fuses at ROF Aycliffe, near Darlington, County Durham. Unknown photographer, 1942. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Drilling a wing bulkhead for a transport plane at the Consolidated Aircraft. Photographed by Howard R. Hollem, October 1942. Library of Congress. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, turning out National and signal flags for the expanding Navy. Unknown photographer, ca. 1941. Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Aluminum Industries, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio. Aluminum paint production. Women work alongside of men in this Midwest aluminum factory now converted to production of war materials. These young workers are assembling 37mm armor-piercing shot prior to heat treating operations. Photographed by Alfred T. Palmer, February 1942. Library of Congress. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women Aircraft Workers. Women man America’s Machines in a West Coast airplane factory, where the swing shift of drill press operators is composed almost entirely of women. Photographed by David Bransby, May 1942. Library of Congress.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women’s War Work. Life in a Shell Factory, England, UK, 1942. Two women spray paint bombs at a factory in Yorkshire. They are both wearing masks to protect them from the paint fumes. Behind them, other munitions workers can be seen maneuvering the bombs into position ready for painting. Unknown photographer, 1942. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women Aircraft Workers. An experienced girl worker in a West Coast airplane factory trains a new girl in the use of a rivet-squeezing machine. Photographed by David Bransby, May 1942. Library of Congress.

We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
A real-life “Rosie the Riveter” operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, Tennessee, working on an A-31 Vengeance dive bomber. Photographed by Alfred T. Palmer, ca. February 1943. Library of Congress. Wikipedia.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 transport at the plant of North American Aviation, Inc. Inglewood, California. Photographed by Alfred T. Palmer, 1942. Library of Congress. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
The production of Merlin engines at a Rolls Royce Factory. Female workers attach the induction manifolds to the cylinder blocks, prior to the blocks being fitted to the engine, at this aircraft engine factory in Britain. Photographed by Richard Stone, 1942. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Woman aircraft worker, Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, Calif. Photographed by David Bransby, June 1942. Library of Congress. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women at work on bomber, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif. Photographed by Alfred T. Palmer, October 1942. Library of Congress. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women in War. Summer Canning Workers. Food to Make America Strong. Women near Rochelle, Illinois, many of them schoolteachers and pupils, work in asparagus canning factories during the summer months. Photographed by Ann Rosener, September 1942. Library of Congress.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women Aircraft Workers. One of the hundreds of young women employed in a West Coast aircraft factory applies identifying marking tape to plumbing sub-assemblies. Photographed by David Bransby, May 1942. Library of Congress.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Pregnant wartime worker Irene Stacey visits the nurse in a clinic attached to the factory where she works in Bristol, England. Photographed by Richard Stone, 1942. Wikipedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Naval air base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Pearl Harbor widows have gone into war work to carry on the fight with a personal vengeance. Mrs. Virginia Young (right), whose husband was one of the first casualties of World War II, is a supervisor in the assembly and repairs department of the naval airbase at Corpus Christi, Texas. Her job is to find convenient and comfortable living quarters for women workers from out of state, like Ethel Mann, who operates an electric drill. Photographed by Howard R. Hollem, August 1942. Library of Congress.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women aircraft workers. Uncle Sam’s fighting men can thank the girls they left behind for the great job they’re doing on America’s production line. These two young women are working on the control column of a giant bomber at one of the West Coast’s aircraft factories. Photographed by David Bransby, May 1942. Library of Congress.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Mrs. Sylvia Wood, of Filton Avenue, serves tea to a female worker at an aircraft factory in Bristol, England, where she works part-time. According to the original caption, Mrs. Wood’s two children eat their dinner at school, and she says: “I’d rather be out doing something to help the war, than at home doing nothing.” Unknown photographer, 1942. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Moscow, USSR (Union of Socialist Soviet Republics). A worker in one of Moscow’s factories, where thousands of women have replaced men on machines of all kinds. Unknown photographer, 1941. Library of Congress.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Martha Bryant and Eulalie Hampden operating a bolt-cutting machine. Photographed by Alfred T. Palmer, 1943. Library of Congress.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Women War Workers Clock in at a British Gun Factory. Unknown Photographer, ca. 1939-1945. Wikimedia Commons.
We Can Do It! 30 Vintage Photos That Will Change Your Perception of Women Factory Workers in WWII
Factory worker among steel helmets produced during the Second World War. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Unknown photographer, 1939-1945. Wikimedia Commons.

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