An engineer working on machinery

Photo Essay: War women at work

Image credit: Library of Congress, mediadrum, WENN

With so many men serving in the armed forces during the Second World War, American women – like their British sisters – made their own contribution to the war effort, often in jobs previously forbidden to them.

The impact women had on the Second World War has been revealed in a series of colour images by photographer Alfred T Palmer.

The photographs show women working on assembly lines in factories as they built fighter planes for men on the front line.

Other shots show women relaxing in the sun on their lunchtime break and publicising the Salvage for Victory campaign.

One woman can be seen operating a hand drill at North American Aviation, while another operates a riveting machine at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant to join sections of wing ribs that reinforce the inner wing.

A woman worker can also be seen putting the finishing touches to a plane’s landing gear while others work on a Vengeance dive bomber.

In the UK, 640,000 women were in the armed forces, while many more worked in factories. Others drove emergency vehicles and some flew aircraft. 55,000 UK women served with guns and provided air defence, and 80,000 were in the Land Army.

Women’s employment rose from about 5.1 million in 1939 (26 per cent) to just over 7.25 million in 1943 (36 per cent of all women of working age).


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