Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Great War: November 26, 1917

Thanks to Rosie the Riveter, we think of women replacing men in factory jobs as a World War II phenomenon, but it also happened during World War I. In 1917, when only fifteen of the forty-eight states allowed women partial or complete suffrage and the 19th Amendment was still three years away from being passed, women were replacing men sent off to war and keeping the factories producing on the home front.

Earlier today, I discovered this item in the Hudson Evening Register for November 26, 1917. For many reasons, it seemed appropriate to share it.

Because this reproduction of the newspaper preserved on microfilm is hard to decipher, a transcription is provided:
NEW YORK, Nov. 26--Men employed in the plant of the Otis Elevator company here have been given official warning that they will be dismissed if they ridicule the combination trousers-bloomers overalls worn by the women workers in the factory.
More than 100 women have been employed in the mechanical departments of the plant to take the place of men called to the colors and have been informed by the foreman that they would be required to wear the "womanalls." A half dozen or more quit rather than obey the order. Many of the others threatened to leave unless the male employees ceased jibing them. The order was issued as a result.
No photographs could be found of the "womanalls" that were required attire for female workers at the Otis Elevator factory, but these photographs--the first showing women making tires at the Morgan & Wright factory in Detroit and the second, from the March 1917 Scientific American Supplement, showing "modern costumes of female factory workers"--provide an idea of what the "combination trousers-bloomers overalls" may have looked like.

Photo: Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

Photo: Scientific American Supplement, March 31, 1917


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