An Article byLishamarie Hunter
Elkton, a small town one hour north of Baltimore has a big history attached to it. During World War II Elkton, MD became the center of the ammunition production for the armed forces overseas. Elkton housed one of the largest munitions factories during the War. The town population grew from 3500 to 12000, after the Triumph Explosives Incorporated came and set up operations. The majority of the workers were women (8,000). These women hung up their aprons and donned gloved and slacks to do their part for the war efforts.
Many women didn’t join the Army during this time but they did find their place in production. Women Ordnance Workers also known as WOWs would work in the factories making ammunition and explosives. WOW were government contractors unlike the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps WAACs). The women who worked at the factory were known as the Bomb-Bomb Girls. These women could be identified by their overalls and red and white polka dot bandanna wrapped around their hair to keep their hair for turning bright orange from the chemicals in the explosives.
The women who worked at the factory were known as the Bomb-Bomb Girls.
The women who worked these positions risked life and limb to build the explosives that were sent to the soldiers fighting overseas. For most of these women it was the first time in their lives they worked outside the home. It gave them purpose and a sense of patriotism, and a good wage. During World War II, women proved that they could do “men’s” work, and do it well. With men away to serve in the military and demands for war material increasing, manufacturing jobs opened up to women and upped their earning power.
Yet women’s employment was only encouraged as long as the war was on. Once the war was over, federal and civilian policies replaced women workers with men. Women’s roles continued to expand in the postwar era. The call for working women was meant to be temporary and women were expected to leave their jobs after the war ended. Some women were okay with this – but they left their posts with new skills and more confidence.
Women who remained in the workplace were usually demoted. But after their selfless efforts during World War II, men could no longer claim superiority over women. Women had enjoyed and even thrived on a taste of financial and personal freedom – and many wanted more. Though progress was slow over the next two decades, serving their country in the military and at home empowered women to fight for the right to work in nontraditional jobs for equal pay and for equal rights in the workplace and beyond.
It is because the effort of these women that modern day women have many of the opportunities they have now. Women currently hold every job that once was considered a man’s job. Happy Women’s History Month (March). Let’s celebrate all the accomplishments of these brave pioneers.
- SGT Audrey Hayes, Remembering Rosie. Army Times Retrieved: 22 February 2022.
- Mack, Tara. The Sky’s The Limit In BoomTown USA, The Washington Post, 4 July 1996. Retrieved: 22 February 2022.
- Vorse, Mary, The Girls Of Elkton, Reporting of World War II, Part One, American Journalism, Harper’s Magazine, March, 1944.
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