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December 24, 2016

Fascinating Color Portrait Photos of American Women Railroad Workers During World War II

World War II began when Hitler’s army invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. However, it wasn’t until the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, that the United States declared war on the Axis Powers.

The railroads immediately were called upon to transport troops and equipment heading overseas. Soon the efforts increased to supporting war efforts on two fronts – in Europe and in the Pacific.

Prior to the 1940s, the few women employed by the railroads were either advertising models, or were responsible primarily for cleaning and clerical work. Thanks to the war, the number of female railroad employees rose rapidly. By 1945, some 116,000 women were working on railroads.

A report that appeared on the 1943 pages of Click Magazine regarding the large number of American women who had stepped forward to see to it that the American railroads continued to deliver the goods during the Second World War:
“Nearly 100,000 women, from messengers aged 16 to seasoned railroaders of 55 to 65, are keeping America’s wartime trains rolling. So well do they handle their jobs that the railroad companies, once opposed to hiring any women, are adding others as fast as they can get them...”
In April 1943, Office of War Information photographer Jack Delano photographed the women of the Chicago & North Western Railroad roundhouse in Clinton, Iowa, as they kept the hulking engines cleaned, lubricated and ready to support the war effort.

Mrs. Dorothy Lucke, a roundhouse wiper.

Mrs. Elibia Siematter, a sweeper at the roundhouse.

Wipers clean an H-class locomotive.

Mrs. Irene Bracker, mother of two, a wiper at the roundhouse.

Mrs. Marcella Hart, mother of three, a wiper at the roundhouse.

Mrs. Marcella Hart and Mrs. Viola Sievers clean an H-class locomotive.

Mrs. Thelma Cuvage sifts and cleans sand for use in locomotives.

Cloe Weaver, mother of four, a roundhouse helper training to operate the turntable.

Mrs. Elibia Siematter on her lunch break.

Roundhouse workers on their lunch break.

Wipers clean an H-class locomotive.

Mrs. Viola Sievers sprays an H-class locomotive with steam.

(Photos: Jack Delano/Library of Congress, via Mashable/Retronaut)


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