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Manned by Women: 1942

Manned by Women: 1942

August 1942. Republic Drill and Tool Co., Chicago. "Pioneers of the production line, these two young workers are among the first women ever to operate a center­less grinder, a machine requiring both the knowledge of precision measuring inst­ruments, and considerable experience and skill in setting up. In this Midwest drill and tool plant, manned almost exclusively by women, centerless grinders have been efficiently operated by women for more than a year, and company prod­uction figures have continued to soar." Medium-format nitrate negative by Ann Rosener for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Old Grinder

That is a Cincinnati centerless. I ran several for 30+ years. The wheel on the left is the movable wheel or the rubber wheel, the stone wheel is on the right. The device on the left is the dresser for the rubber wheel. We ground front bearing retainers for truck/car transmissions, the shaft that the thro-out bearing rides on. Center grinders needed either centers drilled into the work or a device with centers that the work could be mounted. Our grinders were still in use in the mid 1990s.

I worked in machine shops

I worked in machine shops during the summer in Chicago and, yes, it was hot. For one summer I did rough-machining of the outside diameter of cast pistons used in Diesel locomotives, this at the plant of the Electro-Motive Division of GM. I put the casting on a pre-war Ingersoll machining lathe where I removed a good deal of stock. The final machining was done by a centerless grinder (made by Rockford, I think). The piece sits on a small platform between two rotating wheels, operating in the same direction but at differing speeds. One wheel is stationary with an abrasive surface to remove stock, while the other advances laterally pushing the piece against the other wheels' surface, that movement controlled by the operator to determine how much stock is removed (generally using micrometer calipers). By the late '60s when I was doing this sort of thing numerical control was becoming prevalent, reducing (somewhat) the need for operator skill. I guess you could say I was doing center grinding, while the finish operation was centerless grinding. These women are undoubtedly machining stock to a certain diameter that will be turned into drill bits and reamers, considering where they work. I had experience with that, too, operating a Cincinnati Bickford radial drill press (also of World War II vintage) for Brad Foote Gear Works in Cicero for a couple of summers.

Centerless grinding

The center won't hold.

Can anyone more mechanically inclined explain what a centerless grinder is, and what they're used for? It certainly seems like an impressive, complicated gizmo.

Women Can Do It!

Even my 20-something sons have said they notice the "lack of respect for women" just watching movies from the 1970s.

They're glowing

August of '42 in a machine shop in Chicago. I'd say it was pretty warm in there.

Curious caption

The caption nicely puts to bed all those arguments that women can't do men's work, simply by stating that they can and have been doing so, rather successfully.

Then all those women had to skedaddle home to make room for their husbands in the factories when the war ended, because this is men's work.

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