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Employment of Women
in the


Machine-Tool Industry, 1942



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Bulletin of the Women’s Bureau,

No. 192-4



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D. C. - Price 10 cent6

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Digitized Lw\ ^ 1





Letter of transmittal.________________________________________________
Prospect, May 1943__________________________ _______________________
Scope of the survey
Number and occupational distribution of women___________ ____________
Capacity of the industry to employ women
Occupations': Current employment of women andfuture possibilities____
Various 12-14
Lathe operation
Milling operations
Gear cutting
Planing-------------------------------------------------------------------------- __
Miscellaneous machining__
_ __________
Assembly----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Miscellaneous nonproductive__ __________________________________
Conditions of work and personnel problems and practices.
Methods and rates of pay-______________________________________
Recruiting, training, upgrading
Medical services and related problems
Uniforms and safety-clothing regulations __________________ _ ._
Pood service _____ - ________
Tool kits
Personnel work





Factory and office employment of men and women in 15 machine-tool plantsDepartment distribution of men and women in 13machine-tool plants____


Woman performing operation in the skilled assembly of a surface-grinding
machine----------------------------------------------------------------------- frontispiece
Woman operating smaller type of radial drill, work for which very few
women have been employed in American machine-tool industry_________




United States Department of Labor,
Women’s Bureau,

Washington, May 15, 191/5.
The machine-tool industry is illustrative of an industry
in which many women may be substituted for men. Until recently
the industry has employed no women wage earners. Because
machine-tool building was basic to the development of munitions
industries, and because its previous methods of production called for
highly skilled workmen in the first war years, united effort was
exerted to keep the original skilled staff and to add thereto other
skilled mechanics. Now even though the total amount of employ­
ment has reached a peak, there will be need for the replacement of
men by women.
This survey of the machine-tool industry indicates that today there
are many jobs in machine-tool building that are similar to those
women are carrying on efficiently in other industries. That the in­
dustry also recognizes this fact is evidenced by monthly reports of
increase in the employment of women wage earners since our tech­
nicians studied the industry.
The plant surveys were made by Martha J. Ziegler and Margaret
Kay Anderson. The report has been written by Dorothy K. New­
man and Miss Ziegler.
Respectfully submitted.
Mary Anderson, Director.
Hon. Frances Perkins,
Secretary of Labor.

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In the period it has taken for the data to be collected and this re­
port to be prepared and published, machine-tool firms have made ex­
tensive progress in the employment of women. Some of the com­
panies that at time of survey were resisting the hiring of women in
the shop have already taken on hundreds. It is not at all uncommon
today to find that in plants with 2,500 or more workers, from 12 to
20 percent are women.
The following analysis and the conclusions to which it points, how­
ever, are as valid now as before. The data continue to show that,
even discounting plant differences in process and product, the occupa­
tions for which women are employed vary widely from company to
company. Many plants employ men in jobs for which others are
hiring women, and vice versa. This brings into relief two pertinent
facts: (1) That, contrary to traditional notions, women can be trained
under present conditions to handle successfully a wide variety of jobs
in machine-tool manufacture, and (2) that opportunities for women
in this industry are plentiful, assuming the interest and cooperation
of management. The reason, in fact, that the pattern of women’s
occupational distribution in the industry continues so inconsistent and
even haphazard is the extensive field over which women have been
employed, no part of which has yet been fullv exploited. For
example, numbers of women were engaged in machine operations in
some firms, but no women, or very few, were hired for similar work
in others. Many jobs could be opened to women to perform various
kinds of machining on machine tools and accessories. In a few plants
women were doing a great deal of in-process inspection, but in most
of the others they performed only a small proportion, if any. Sub­
assembly work was women’s chief job in one of the lathe factories,
but this was considered unsuitable for women in several other firms
where subassemblies were made.
Further illustration would only be redundant. It should be remem­
bered, of course, that, the employment of women, like that of inexperi­
enced men, requires in many cases dilution of skills, involving also
in some instances the introduction of handling conveniences. But
it must not be forgotten that women, like boys and men employed
now and in the past, become proficient with experience, and some
are soon able to tackle more highly skilled and difficult operations.
In some quarters the employment problems of the industry that
involve the necessity for extensive dilution of skills and the intro­
duction of new and expensive equipment now appear less grave due
to the threat of dwindling wTar orders. Though in the years before
the war an annual machine-tool production worth $150j000,000 was
considered good, in 1942 the industry’s monthly output averaged prac­
tically three-fourths of this. However, from the very function of
the business now, that of providing the basic tooling and retooling
for the mass production of war material, output can hardly be ex­



pected to continue at such a remarkably high rate. The initial
tooling-up has in many places been completed, and recent figures
show that the industry is now catching up with its backlog. Not
only are new orders no longer equal to shipments, but in addition
there was an 11-percent reduction in output from December 1942
to January 1943. Production dropped again in February and was
slightly lower in May.
This apparent trend has worried machine-tool manufacturers, since
in many cases, even with extensive subcontracting, expansion in plant
and other investment has been tremendous. They anticipate that soon
they may have to convert all or part of their facilities to the manu­
facture of other wartime products. This uneasiness about the future
doubtless has affected the attitude of some firms toward hiring women
for the first time or adding to the numbers they already employ.
There is definite indication, however, that machine-tool orders will
by no means cease when initial tooling has been completed. In the
first place, it has been estimated that the backlog alone, if contracts
are not cancelled, would keep the industry going at top speed into
the summer of 1943. Actually, it may take even longer to clean up
the backlog, since some of the largest companies with orders ahead
are not now devoting all their energy to machine-tool production but
have already taken on the manufacture of other products. Secondly,
at the rate at which old and new machines have been used, thousands
will have to be replaced. In many companies, furthermore, tooling
for war production was done so hastily that old tools were accepted
and new ones were designed in a hurry. Careful study of operations
can now be gone into and designs made for better and more special­
ized tools, a great number of which will be needed as the war con­
tinues. The requirements of other countries remain high also.
On May 12, 1943, the War Production Board announced in a press
release that “the United States at last has the machine tools * * *
it needs to build production to defeat the Axis.” This pronounce­
ment, with its accompanying outline of a plan for pushing production
of war material almost to the exclusion of facilities, makes more
imminent the conversion of a large proportion of the industry.
As conversion occurs, however, the demand for women workers is
likely to increase rather than decrease. Women can be absorbed in
munitions manufacture in larger proportion than in machine-tool
production, since the making of munitions involves straight mass
production, in which women as inexperienced workers can participate
much more readily and fully. Therefore, the possibility that a firm
might have to convert later should not preclude the hiring of women
now. The fact is that full utilization of the woman labor force in
plants now devoted exclusively to machine-tool production has barely

Employment of Women in the Machine-Tool
Industry, 1942
Machine tools are the basic tools of war production. Their use is
essential in the manufacture, to very close tolerances, of the thousands
of metal parts for guns, ships, tanks, planes, and countless other sup­
plies and equipment upon which the armed forces of the United
States depend. For this reason the production of machine tools had
to be expanded rapidly before other production could get under way.
According to a statement released by the United States Depart­
ment of Commerce in November 1942, the machine-tool builders of
the country had produced more equipment in the previous 20 months
than in 10 normally active years. The value of machine-tool output
for the entire year 1942 reached the staggering sum of nearly 1 and a
third billion dollars, or about 6 times the value of the 1939 output.
Such a figure would have been almost inconceivable prior to the out­
break of war in Europe.
To meet the load of expanding production, employment also has
increased until, according to a reliable estimate, the industry in 1943
has about 4 times as many workers as the average for 1939. The
immediate employment problem, however, seems to be not so' much
a matter of finding the necessary labor for further expansion as of
keeping what labor there is on the job and finding substitutes for
men who enlist, are drafted, or move on to other war plants. To
cope with this situation some employers already have taken on fac­
tory women in this traditionally male-employing industry, and top­
flight executives are recommending that the practice be extended.
The rapidity with which women have recently been absorbed into
machine-tool plants may be judged from the fact that in 1939 they
comprised less than half of 1 percent of the total wage earners in
the approximately 200 plants engaged principally in making machine
tools, whereas at time of writing the proportion is about 11 percent
of a considerably expanded force.
In view of the industry’s importance and recent expansion, the
Women’s Bureau of the United States Department of Labor made
an investigation of machine-tool plants in the summer of 1942. This
was in accordance with the Act of Congress creating the Bureau in
1920, which outlines its duties as follows: “It shall be the duty of said
bureau to formulate standards and policies which shall promote the
welfare of wage-earning women, improve their working conditions,
increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunities for profitable
employment. The said bureau shall have authority to investigate and
report to the said department upon all matters pertaining to the wel­
fare of women in industry.”



As in its other war-industry surveys, the purpose of the Bureau
in its study of the machine-tool industry was to find out to what
extent and in what jobs women were or would be employed by some
typical firms, and to be able, on the basis of the kinds of work they
were known to be doing successfully elsewhere, to make recommenda­
tions concerning the jobs in which the employment of women could
be introduced or extended. Trained field agents interviewed plant
executives, production superintendents, shop foremen, and personnel
workers, arid made a careful tour of each of the factories surveyed.
In those plants where women had not yet been placed on productive
occupations the work in the factory was closely observed and the
problems involved in its performance were noted. Where women
were engaged in productive work, Women’s Bureau agents paid spe­
cial attention to their occupations. Data were secured from each firm
concerning the numbers employed, hours, wages, and other conditions
of work, and personnel policies and problems.
Fifteen well-known plants, situated in recognized centers of the
industry in New England and the Middle West, were visited. These
plants differ greatly in size and make the principal machine tools,
that is, milling machines; drilling, reaming, and honing machines;
gear-cutting machines; broaches; grinders; and engine, automatic,
and turret lathes. The 15 plants are engaged primarily in machinetool manufacturing, and so come within the 1939 Census of Manu­
factures definition of that industry, namely, “establishments primari­
ly engaged in the manufacture of power-driven complete metal­
working machines not portable by hand, having one or more tool and
work-holding devices, used for progressively removing the metal in
the form of chips.” This definition is in general accord with that of
the United States Bureau of the Budget in its Standard Industrial
Classification Manual, and of the War Production Board.
In the industry as a whole the production of lathes (including
screw machines) far exceeds that of any other type of machine tool
made, being two-fifths of the total 1939 machine-tool output. Next
are the drilling machines, comprising about one-fourth of the units
made, and after these come grinding and milling machines, which
together are but one-fifth of the 1939 production.
Firms making machines “for the shaping, pressing, or forging of
metal, where the shaping action of such machines is not dependent
upon a cutting tool” are not included in the machine-tool industry.
This would be true, for example, of factories making forging or
stamping machines, presses, or die-casting machines. Excluded also
are the firms whose chief products are machine-tool accessories or
attachments, precision measuring tools, or small portable power-driven
cutting and shaping tools.
visited, and products and company systems of organization differed,
Equally complete plant figures were not available in all plants
so in some cases proportions of workers employed in various occupa­
tions are only approximate.
The total number of employees in the plants surveyed, computed
from figures available at the time of visit, was approximately 45,000,
well over one-fourth of the currently estimated total force of the
industry. Though the proportions varied somewhat from plant to
plant, about 85 percent of the workers in the 15 plants taken as a
whole were in the factory, the remainder in office or sales work. In



the 13 plants reporting employment by department, only about 1 in 4
of those in the factory were in such occupations as shop clerk, janitor,
cafeteria worker, trucker, packer, tool-crib attendant, toolroom
worker, maintenance worker, laboratory worker, designer, and the
like, commonly called “nonproductive.” The others had jobs directly
connected with the preparation, machining, inspection, or assembling
of the product.
Five of the companies manufactured nothing but machine tools;
9 made machine-tool accessories or machinists’ tools in addition; and
8, including 7 of those making accessories, manufactured some mis­
cellaneous products not considered within the metal-workingmachinery industries. In some plants employees were expected to
work on various products, so distinction between workers on the basis
of the end products they help to make was not always possible, espe­
cially among the nonproductive personnel who ordinarily service the
plant as a whole. In none of the 10 companies where other products
were made were so many as two-fifths of the employees engaged
primarily in other than machine-tool production, and in 4 plants
fewer than 5 percent of the workers were employed exclusively on
such products. The accessories departments had more workers than
the departments making products not in the metal-workingmachinery classification. Altogether about 9 percent of the workers
were primarily on machinists’ tools or machine-tool accessories at the
time of visit and not quite 3 percent were on other than machine tools
and accessories. The accessories included, among a variety of other
things, chucks, collets, jigs, fixtures, broaches, milling-machine cut­
ters, reamers, gear cutters, and measuring tools and instruments.
Some companies made these tools or attachments primarily for use on
the types of machine tools they manufactured, some for the general

The machine-tool industry is traditionally a man’s industry. Of
the nearly 45,000 workers in the 15 plants surveyed, only 3,544, or not
quite 8 percent, were women, and almost 3 in 4 of the women were
employed in the plant offices. Though all the firms had women in the
office, even here women by no means predominated, comprising only
about two-fifths of the total office force in all the plants combined. In
3 cases women were less than one-fifth and in only 2 were they more
than half those on the office pay roll.
Eight of the 15 plants employed women as factory workers. This
was, in most instances, an innovation due to the emergency. At date
of survey, the summer of 1942, 2y2 percent of all the factory em­
ployees in the plants visited were women, and the proportion in the
plants where women were working varied from 2 to as much as 8
percent of the factory total. These ratios undoubtedly have increased
since the survey, since officials in all the plants employing women fac­
tory workers said they were planning to hire more of them and, in
addition, 6 of the 7 with no women factory workers on the pay roll
at the time of visit were giving serious thought to their employment.
534026°—43----- 2



One company not then employin'; women in the factory had made a
careful analysis of all the jobs on the factory floor and had designated
the ones it was thought women could fill; it had let a contract for
women’s rest-room equipment, and was ready to go ahead with the hir­
ing, pending only the settlement of certain raw-material and ma­
chinery shortages. Another had made an occupational analysis and
had estimated the numbers that might be hired. Most of them could
tell roughly about how high the proportion of women factory work­
ers in the plant might become, should women eventually be taken on,
and all were interested in discussing women’s employment, indicating
in every case that there was at least a possibility that women would
be hired in the future.
Factory and office employment of men and women in 15 machine-tool plants
All workers
Place of work

In office *---------------------------------------


38, 216
6, 637










37, 279




1 Includes 58 men in sales force, and machine installation and service,.

About four-fifths of the women found in factory work were in pro­
ductive occupations such as machining, assembling, and inspecting.
The others were primarily in shop clerical jobs such as timekeeping,
stock chasing, production control, and the like, or were employed, to
mention the more numerous, in service work and in the shipping and
store rooms, the toolroom, and the tool crib. Three plants had more
than 100 women each in production departments, and in one of these
the women were more than 7y2 percent of the productive employees.
Of the women in factory work, two-fifths were working primarily
on machine-tool accessories or small tools and other products, rather
than on the machine tools themselves. In fact, though women com­
prised less than 2 percent of the productive factory workers em­
ployed chiefly on machine tools, they constituted nearly 6 percent of
the workers on accessories and 12 percent of those on other products.
In four of the six plants where there were women working on other
products they were half or more of the women factory workers em­
ployed. In the other two the women factory workers were engaged
chiefly in making machine tools, most of them in such productive
work as machining and inspection. It is significant also that two
of the eight plants that reported women in factory work made noth­
ing but machine tools, and, what is more, were among the first four
companies in the proportion of women to total factory workers em­
ployed. The data prove, therefore, that women can be employed in
substantial numbers in plants other than where accessories and other
products are made. To be sure, differences in the kinds of machine
tools they make affect the capacity of machine-tool firms to absorb
women in their labor force. Consideration will be given this in the
section of the report dealing primarily with occupations.



The foregoing discussion indicates in brief what will be brought
out in more detail in a later section, that not only were women not
employed to any grea't extent in the machine-tool industry at the time
of the survey, especially in productive work, but where they were
employed their occupational distribution showed little uniformity
from firm to firm.
The reasons for this situation, besides differences in products and
processes, are various. One of the most potent is the strength of
tradition in the industry, heretofore a man’s world. One personnel
director stated, for example, that between the period of World War X
and the present war emergency his company had made it a policy not
to employ women in clerical jobs within the factory, that is, as de­
partment clerks, timekeepers, and the like. No women were per­
mitted on the factory side of the wall, as it were. In fact, the bulk
of all clerical jobs in the plants surveyed, whether in factory or
office, still tended to be held by men at the time of visit, though this
is work for which women have been employed elsewhere as a matter
of course. Again, a plant reported specifically that one of the diffi­
culties that had to be met there in connection with the employment
of women was resistance from foremen. Where such traditions exist,
not only is there the expected opposition on the part of workmen as
well as supervisory personnel to efforts to introduce women, but also
there are variations in the methods and speed with which the change
is made. It is a curious thing that the amount of experience the man­
agement has had with women in factory work shows no discernible
correlation with the degree to which the scope of women’s employ­
ment has broadened as a result of the war emergency; three of the
firms that have been most progressive in their employment policies in
regard to women, opening to them a variety of productive jobs under
liberal conditions for the acquisition of skill, had no women on pro­
duction prior to the spring of 1942.
The adequacy of the male labor supply and the availability of
women for factory work vary from area to area, so the different com­
panies have not been affected equally by the generally tight labor mar­
ket and some have felt less need to hire women. All those visited, how­
ever, had experienced a severe shortage of skilled male labor by the
summer of 1942, and some were even having difficulty recruiting semi­
skilled and unskilled men. Many complained of high turn-over among
their men, numbers of whom shopped around for other jobs, enlisted,
or were drafted. Most believed the supply of woman labor adequate,
even abundant. The fact is that when both men and women had to be
trained for the job, though the turn-over among men was high, the
tendency was to hire men if they could be had.
In some instances expansion in the labor force had occurred very
early because of war orders from England, Russia, and France, and
also because orders reached machine-tool plants before less basic indus­
tries. This gave some firms the opportunity to tap the labor market
early for male employees. Some company executives said, for example,
that several years ago their firms began taking on and training many
young men. However, though these plants have been at an advantage
for some time there is no guarantee that their men, still young, will
not soon be transferred to the military services. Early in the emer­
gency, when men were comparatively plentiful for the Army, local
draft boards were willing to defer workers in machine-tool plants, but



in many cases tliis is no longer true. A number of the firms visited
reported to Women’s Bureau agents in the summer of 1942 that many
of their men, even skilled workers, were being drafted, and an even
larger proportion were expected to be called. Numbers were enlisting.
This situation has been one of the chief reasons for employing women.
One employment manager stated that the local draft board had urged
him to begin hiring women.
In four of the States in which the machine-tool plants of the survey
are located, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Rhode Island, women’s
workweek is limited to 48 hours or less except by special permit. New
Hampshire, also with a 48-hour law, licenses 54 hours during 8 weeks in
any 6-month period, and in addition exempts the manufacture of muni­
tions or supplies for the United States in wartime. One company in
each of two States voiced the complaint that this restriction is an incon­
venience when women are placed on men’s jobs in productive factory
work, since the men work longer hours, thereby necessitating two sets
of work schedules and special synchronization of men and women with
the jobs to be done and the machines available to do them. This com­
plaint was made in response to a question concerning the possibility of
extended employment of women. Several other firms visited, how­
ever—also in the States that limit women’s workweek to 48 hours or
less—all employ women in productive jobs. In each case the work
schedule provides for a workweek of from 44 to 48 hours for women
but from 52% to 63 hours for men. One of these firms was planning at
the time of visit eventually to place women on almost every type of
work except where heavy lifting was required. This included the
operation of a variety of machine tools. Furthermore, women were to
be hired in this firm as replacements for men, and not to expand the
labor force. In each of the five States where maximum hours are 48
or less, adult women, at least by special permit, may work at night,
thus allowing several shifts.
Before women can be employed, toilet facilities must be provided
for them. This can be a very real problem. In at least 5 of the 15
firms visited, plans to hire women were delayed or hindered because of
difficulty in securing materials under priorities for the installation of
the necessary equipment. One plant had to place a sizable proportion
of its women machine-shop workers on the third shift because the
office workers’ facilities were the oidy ones women could use pending
completion of the factory equipment. The crux of the situation, how­
ever, is not that materials cannot be secured at all, but that they are
slow in being made available. Plans, therefore, for providing facili­
ties for women must be made as long as possible before women are to
be employed, so that the delays experienced will not handicap the
organization unduly in its recruitment.
Though for various reasons, some of which have been discussed,
certain firms have been more active than others in hiring women for
factory work, most agree that the time has come when the woman
labor supply must be tapped in earnest. Furthermore, several have
expressed great satisfaction with the ability and efficiency of their
women workers and their capacity to learn and to produce. These
firms are planning to hire many more women. The question remains,
then, how extensively can women be employed in the machine-tool
industry when its basic production problems and processes are con-



sidered ? The following pages will be devoted to a discussion of this
general subject.
Department distribution of men and women in IS machine-tool plants 1
All workers


Percent Percent
Number of depart­ of women’s
ment total total

Grand total..................................
Total factory—productive..............
Foundry____________ __________
Raw steel; castings receiving and cleaning;
painting _________________________
Heat treating, blacksmith, forge, sheet
metal and welding.___ _____________
Machining___________ _______ ____
Assembling___________ ______
Supervisors, trainers, n. e. C—.............. ...
Apprentices, n. e. c............................. ........
Miscellaneous, n. e. c.3

of total




3, 353





25, 799










6, 283

12, 876






2 31



Total factory—nonproductive







Shop offices________________ _________
Receiving, shipping, and finished stores. __
Powerhouse and equipment and machine

1, 214






Service, laborers, truckers.. . ____ ____
Tool crib (tool supply)
Gage inspection, laboratory, metallurgy...
Experimental, design, and pattern shop...
Miscellaneous, n. e. c................................ .












3, 894

2, 535



Total office 7




1 Covers all workers, whether engaged primarily in making machine tools, machine-tool accessories, or
other products. All workers in 2 additional companies and 45 men in another could not be distributed by
department because of lack of detailed data.
2 In training in apprentice department but not apprentices.
3 Includes all productive workers primarily on products other than machine tools and machine-tool
4 Less than 0.05 percent.
fNot computed; base too small.
• Productive work may be done in the toolroom.
7 Includes 58 men in sales force and machine installation and service.

The machine tool is an intricate mechanism. The tool itself, the
instrument that actually cuts into the metal, is one of the smaller
parts of the machine, in fact, an accessory to it that may be easily and
quickly replaced. There may be a ton or more of frame, ram, gears,
racks, and other devices all coordinated to direct the small tool in its
course through or against the metal to be worked. Machine tools
may range in size from those small enough to mount on a bench and
weighing only a hundred pounds to giants that stand as high as a
three-story house and weigh several hundred tons.
The lathe was the first machine tool and retains its original prin­
ciple of operation. It is a turning machine in which the tool remains
stationary, the work revolving against it; in this way a cylindrical
surface is generated. Drilling or horizontal boring machines and
milling machines are the direct descendants of the lathe. The former



cut. round holes by means of a rotating cutting tool; the latter pri­
marily produce flat surfaces by means of a rotating tool with multiple
cutting edges that take successive layers from the work. For other
kinds of flat-surface work there is the shaper, in which the tool
moves back and forth over the work, and the planer, in which the
work reciprocates beneath the tool. There are many other devices
for special purposes, such as slotting machines (really vertical
shapers in which the ram carrying the tool moves vertically and
thereby may machine flat surfaces at right angles to the main body
of the work), broaching machines, gear cutters, thread cutters, auto­
matic screw machines; for a final smooth finish, grinding, honing,
and lapping machines.
Each machine may be built for either of two purposes: (1) to
perform different operations on miscellaneous pieces or (2) to per­
form the same operation or operations on quantities of pieces of
the same type. The first kind of machine is versatile, flexible, and
adjustable. Ordinarily it is operated by a skilled machinist and with
it can be constructed other machines, including those of the made-toorder variety. Machines of the second type are specialized. They
often have a capacity for multiple tools—groups of drills or cutters
working away simultaneously—and may be partly or fully automatic,
so that once set up they require an operator only to load and unload
and to start and stop them. It is such machines that more often
than any others are “one of a kind” and reach gargantuan size. As
masters of mass production they frequently present special problems
brought to the attention of machine-tool builders’ sales engineers
who design them in conference with the customer.
Machine-tool factories make both kinds of mechanism, but in so
doing use the former type of machine almost to the exclusion of
the latter. This is because very seldom even in the present emergency,
are really large quantities of identical machine tools ordered at a
time. There are few firms that specialize in only one kind of
machine, the drill press for example, the grinder, the lathe, and so
on, and even those that do are prepared to make a variety of sizes
and types and frequently must turn out “tailor-made” models such
as those already described to fill special orders. One well-known
manufacturer, said to be engaged in the “mass production” of
milling machines, in 1940 made over 140 varieties of the bed and knee
type milling machine, all differing in principal characteristics. Even
with the degree of efficiency in manufacture achieved by this plant,
milling machines or their components do not leave the assembly line
with anything like the speed of a standard make of automobile.
The assembly of only one component of the machine, the knee, takes
8 hours.
A single machine tool may have several thousand parts. There are,
for instance, over 3,000 parts in a turret lathe. Working three shifts,
a turret-lathe manufacturer cannot build a lathe in less than 3 months.
The building of some types of machine tools and the larger lathes
requires a considerably longer time than that, sometimes 9 months
or a year. Though the 1942 output of machine tools was about
308,000 units,1 or nearly 4% times the output of 1939, this scarcely
constitutes mass production when compared with the manufacture
1 Exclusive of low cost (under $350) units.



in 1939 of over 10,350,000 radio receiving sets, over 2,800,000 passen­
ger cars, and nearly 1,800,000 electric refrigerators. It is clear that
no degree of plant expansion, installation of new equipment, multi­
ple-shift operation, subcontracting, or dilution of labor and break­
down of job operations can speed machine-tool building beyond a
certain point.
This being the case, machine-tool manufacturers asserted, the lots
of parts running through a machine at a given time tend to be smaller
on the average in the machine-tool industry than in many others,
especially industries engaged in mass production, and obviously this
necessitates frequent set-up of the machine, usually done by the oper­
ator, and requires a degree of skill said to be unobtainable in inexperi­
enced recruits. Company officials said also that many of the parts
to be made must be machined to very close, tolerances, some of them
so accurately that a leeway of only a few ten-thousandths of an inch
from the exact dimensions specified is permitted. Some commented
that the parts that must be handled on any one machine may vary
greatly in size and weight, thus requiring a muscularly strong person.
Objections to the hiring of women were raised with regard not
only to machine operation but to other jobs also. For the most part
they were based on the one hand on the extraordinary skill or tech­
nical knowledge required to do the work, and on the other on the
degree of physical strength or endurance necessary. Experience of
other industries has shown that neither of these factors, within limits,
bars employment of women. It must be pointed out also that though
the machine-tool industry is not in mass production it has been forced
to make certain adjustments to its recent and rapid expansion that
follow the pattern of mass-production techniques and thus allow at
this time the extensive employment of semiskilled labor.
In recent years large numbers of inexperienced men have been
trained in the industry within very short periods, and it has been
estimated that most of the men making machine tools in January
1942 had never seen the inside of a machine-tool plant 2 years before
that date. In many cases the regular 3- to 4-year apprenticeship
course for training all-round machinists has been practically dis­
continued in favor of an 18-months learnership program or a few
months or even weeks of instruction on one specific machine to be
operated or job to-be done. By 1941 the industry had trained thou­
sands of new men, in from 6 weeks to 4 months, to operate even the
more difficult machines such as boring mills and turret lathes. Train­
ing of this kind lias been intensified and has already proved in many
places the feasibility in the industry of breaking down an all-round
machinist’s skill into its component parts. In one plant this technique
yielded enough skilled men to start a third shift, thereby doubling
production within 3 months’ time.
This happened in an important company of Cleveland, where a
learnership program lasting 2 to 5 months for each student has been
m operation since 1935. Only men with technical-high-school train­
ing or a knowledge of blueprint reading and simple measuring tools
were accepted. Soon, however, not even the meager background
required of these learners could be counted on, and the rank and file
of absolutely untrained individuals were taken in a newly organized
vestibule training school, designed to give in 6 weeks general back­
ground and specialized instruction on one machine or one job. After



6 weeks the pupils in the vestibule school enter the learner course
to receive advanced training that will make them skilled machine
operators. In most places there is no class instruction, but all trainees
learn directly on the job under the tutelage of an experienced worker.
They stand beside veteran employees, watching them closely. Soon
they are allowed to operate the simpler controls and then the entire
mechanism, thereby advancing to the status of semiskilled operators.
Within 60 to 90 days learners can be put on their own.
Women as well as men have been successfully introduced into such
short-term training programs and have proved to be apt pupils. The
data show that when processes are broken down sufficiently to admit
on-the-job training and dilution of skill, there is no doubt of women’s
capacity to participate in machine-tool manufacture. The fact that
larger quantities of parts are now going through machine-tool plants
makes subdivision of work more practicable than ever before and
allows the use of set-up men in many places, leaving the more routine
work of machine operation to others. With larger lots, runs tend
to be longer, so some of the machine tools used can be set up for
repetitive operations for which men or women are quickly trained.
In some plants good tooling has replaced individual skill. In one
case the inside chasing of threads was eliminated by standardizing
the thread and size of hole and then buying four or five expensive
taps by which the job could be done with much less skilled attention;
in addition, automatic sizing equipment was put on lathes in the
machine shop so that some operations involving fine-finish turning
can be given virtually unskilled employees to do. The same plant
reduced the number of models made to the extent that some were being
scheduled in lots of over a thousand. This enabled still further sub­
division of operations and still more job simplification; it justified
retooling many jobs with improved jigs and fixtures for quantity
operation. It meant, in fact, that new workers coming in could be
taught one operation and kept on that operation continuously.
Though an official of this company has stated that wTork simplification
is something that can be undertaken in almost any plant, regardless
of size, this doubtless cannot be accomplished to the same degree in
all places. It has not been carried out to any appreciable extent in
most of the machine-tool plants visited.
Whether or not work simplification has been'undertaken in an
endeavor to dilute skills, it is well known that the machine tool itself
as it is made today is a well-designed instrument presenting the maxi­
mum of aid to the operator. As one executive has said, “Owing to
development and design, the machine tool now does the physical work
which formerly was done by the operator. The machine tool has
within itself the precision and the power needed to get the job done.
All that the operator has to do is to have the intelligence and the
dexterity to operate the machine. * * * It seems natural that girls
should be able to learn this craftsmanship just as well and as rapidly
as boys, and so make good machine operators.” In another machinetool plant the executives in remarking that modern machine tools are
either fully or partly automatic, said, “After a little practice any
dependable man with common sense and the ability to learn should be
able to acquire skill.” Operating practices have been so standardized,
in fact, that within a limited range the correct speed and feed for
taking each cut is known. Enclosed and self-contained electrical



equipment is common and operated -with push-button controls.;
Machines generally are equipped also with internal and self-lubrication/
Though inexperienced women can learn to do part, and in some places
a considerable part, of the work in a machine-tool plant, a serious
draw-back to their employment is the great size and weight of many
of the pieces and the fact that large and small pieces may follow one
another in the production process. This is not so serious, of course,
where handling devices are provided. Further, men are no more
capable than women of handling many of the major parts without
the use of cranes, chain hoists, or other mechanical lifting devices and
these very generally are part of the regular equipment in large modern
machine shops. Women have been seen using lifting devices in con­
nection with machining operations and operating both their hoists and
their machines with no apparent difficulty. As a matter of fact, it
appears that women can be employed more successfully on very heavy
work when power chucks, lifting mechanisms, and other aids are pro­
vided than on parts that are beyond the lifting ability of the average,
woman but not that of the average man.
There are many instances in which the work, even with the use of
handling devices, requires more strength and endurance than the aver­
age woman commands. In assembly operations, where this is very
often the case, two of the firms visited had segregated the lighter from
the heavier work and were employing a good many women on unitassembly operations, and another was actively making plans for such
a scheme. Rearrangement of work so that the lighter parts in machin­
ing departments can be handled separately from the larger and heavier
ones appears possible also in sections where a number of machines of
the same type are used. In fact, one official who was consulted about
this said it could be done in his plant and probably would be done if
women were hired. The rearrangement, however, would require re­
organization of the prevailing scheme of manufacture, since all the
pieces for one assembly are kept together and machined on the same
machine. In his opinion the break-down of operations so that all the
small parts for different assemblies could be handled on certain
machines would decrease the efficiency of plant operation, in that more
movemen and stock chasers would be necessary. In other plants the
flow of production, not being arranged exactly in this fashion, allows
more conveniently for the suggested division of work. In one of the
firms visited the smaller tools in two machining departments were
already separated from the medium and large, the lighter work being
at one end of the room and the heavier at the other. The smaller parts
were being routed separately in these two departments, yet no women
were employed there nor was their employment anticipated, though
the company had already begun to hire women operatives in other parts
of the plant.
The weight of the work has nothing to do with the precision required
of the worker. It should not be underemphasized here that in ma­
chine-tool manufacture a great many operations that command special
skill and accuracy remain even where process simplification and dilu­
tion have been accomplished. Inexperienced men and women cannot
be expected at the beginning to perform such operations, many of
which need seasoned judgment as well as the skill that comes from
aptitude tempered with experience. Yet, though they have been in
534026°—43----- 8



the industry a relatively short time, women already are doing accurate
work on jobs requiring, for example, machining to a tolerance of
.0002", or a fifteenth part of the diameter of a hair. It was said more
than once that women had been found unusually conscientious about
following instructions exactly. Further, where small lots are com­
mon some women already are learning the setting up of their own
machines, generally considered skilled work. This was true in six of
the eight plants visited in which women were on productive work.
One of these, in fact, has no special set-up men, since women are ex­
pected to set up all the machines they operate.
Great Britain has been at war nearly 4 years and consequently
is now suffering a much greater scarcity of manpower than is the
United States. This is reflected in her machine-tool industry, in which
the proportion of women to men very materially exceeds this country’s
and the jobs women are doing are much broader in scope. To be sure,
most persons in the industry here would agree that in case of real
need women could and would be employed in occupations no one now
even dreams of suggesting. In this report the types of work pro­
posed as feasible for women are those in which women can be em­
ployed conveniently and easily now. Consideration is given to the
'obs women are already doing in the industry here and in Great
Britain, to the work suggested by plant officials as suitable for women,
and to their jobs and the types of machine tools women are operating
in other industries.


Methods of production and systems of departmental organization
differ in details within the industry, but in general the types of work
are very similar throughout. Therefore the departments and occu­
pations within each as they might be found in a “typical” plant make
the framework of this discussion. It is recognized that no one com­
pany may have all the divisions outlined.
Work with raw stock: Foundry work, castings cleaning, forging,
bar-stock storing and cut-off.
The kinds of raw iron and steel stock used in making machine tools
are chiefly castings, forgings, and steel bars. The major components
for the machines, such as beds, headstocks, and tailstocks, are made
from castings prepared usually in outside foundries. Two of the
firms visited, however, had foundries as integral parts of their opera­
tions. No women were employed in them, though women have been
engaged in foundry work as core makers for many years. Cores
weighing up to hundreds of pounds may be made by women if
mechanical aids are provided, though in this country women are for
the most part still making only the lighter cores.
The castings must be cleaned before they begin their trip through
the machining departments. Some work of this kind was being done
in each of the plants visited, though in a few cases most of it was
completed in outside foundries before castings were delivered. The
work generally requires a considerable amount of physical strength,
since it involves the use of heavy hammers and chisels and portable



grinders and polishing equipment. Sandblasting equipment also may
be used. No women were employed in the castmgs-cleaning depart­
ments, sometimes called snagging and chipping departments, nor were
they being considered in future hiring plans. Though women are
doing this work in Great Britain, it does not appear to be suitable for
women here as it is now arranged. Further, since the total number
of workers involved is relatively small, this is one of the last places
women’s employment might be recommended.
Forgings are used for parts that require great strength, such as
shafts, levers, and gears. Some of the plants had small forge depart­
ments, but, as in the case of castings, at the time of visit most were
buying their forgings. In any case, not only were few workers em­
ployed in machine-tool forging, but it did not appear likely that any
significant number of women could be successfully inducted to the
Small parts such as spindles and small gears usually are made from
steel bar stock. Bars of various lengths and diameters are stored in
steel-stock rooms and, as needed, pieces are cut off with such equip­
ment as power hacksaws, cold saws, and abrasive cut-off machines.
No women were employed in this work. It is not highly skilled but
involves the handling of heavy bars as they are received, storing them
in some orderly system of arrangement, and, in addition, loading, un­
loading, and operating the cut-off equipment. Women could do some
of the work on small light bar stock and even on the heavier stock if
handling devices were provided. As the work was organized at the
time of visit in the plants surveyed, however, most of it would be too
heavy for women.
There are several departments in machine-tool production besides
those just mentioned and the three major ones to be considered later
i. e., machining, assembly, and inspection. They come in at different
stages in the manufacturing process but will be discussed here without
regard to logical order.
Spray painting is the- more common technique used in painting cast­
ings and finishing the completed machines, though some hand paint­
ing also was seen. All the work was done by men, though women could
be employed to do some of it where the proper exhausts were provided
for protection from paint and fumes. To be sure, the total number
of men that could be released would be relatively small.
Sheet-metal work.
Sheet-metal departments were noted in some plants where guards
and enclosures to cover moving parts and to keep dust and dirt from
machinery were being made. Power shears, nibblers, bending ma­
chines, and the like were being used. Most of the work appeared to be
too heavy for women, since the pieces of metal to be handled were large
and of heavy gage. No women were employed, but women could
handle small power presses and power shafts on the lighter types of
Small groups of male welders were occasionally noted doing oxyacetylene or electric arc welding work that women were known to be
doing successfully in other industries.



Heat treating.
Heat treating is an essential process in machine-tool manufacture
and was part of the plant operations in every firm visited. Various
methods of heat treating, including hardening and annealing and
tempering, carburizing, and case hardening, are used on different parts
for different purposes. Heat treatment may he employed to relieve
stresses and strains in forgings, to harden gears so they will stand
up under strain and wear, and to produce wear-resistant surfaces on
cutting tools. In all but one of the plants visited heat-treating work,
whether on parts for machine tools or on cutters and other machinetool accessories, was being done in one department. One plant had
a separate heat-treating unit for its small tools.
Opportunities for women in heat-treating departments as they are
now managed are limited; very few women were employed in them
at time of survey and those employed were not engaged in actual
heat-treat work, but in hardness testing. First, much of the work
requires considerable background and experience and consequently
cannot be handled by inexperienced recruits. Second, in some plants
a great deal of heavy work is involved in the loading and unloading
of furnaces and in plunging the heated pieces of metal into quenching
tanks. And finally, some employers considered the work connected
with heat treating unsuitable for women because the working con­
ditions involve exposure to intense heat, possible burns, and chemical
fumes. Adequate protection is of course required for both sexes
under such conditions. An increase in the amount of handling equip­
ment and the installation of automatic feeds for furnaces would make
possible the introduction of women to the work in many places. In
fact, at least one official stated that women could be employed immedi­
ately to work on the simpler heat-treating operations on small pieces
of metal.
Rockwell and Brinell hardness testing is commonly done in heat­
treating departments. One of the plants visited employed a few
women for this work in which the use of gages also was involved.
Women can do this type of inspection in other machine-tool plants
also when, with or without mechanical handling devices, it is within
their handling capacity.2
In one plant it was said that women might be employed on the
straightening of light tools of the bar type. This involves placing
under presses tools that are hot after passing through a heat-treating
process. Women are heating and straightening small drills in the
machine-tool-accessory industry, and consequently could do similar
work on somewhat larger types of tools. One firm has solved the
problem of the danger from hot metal pieces breaking on the applica­
tion of pressure by providing a metal guard with a safety-glass
window through which the operator watches her work.
Only 12 percent of all productive workers and less than 2 percent
of the women on production in the machine-tool plants visited3 were
in the departments just discussed. Machining, on the other hand,
2 See p. 40 for a discussion of weight lifting.
s Proportions based on data available in 13 of the 15 plants.



employs more personnel than any other division of work, using half
of all the men and nearly two-fifths of all the women in production
departments. Most of the employees in machining units are operat­
ing machine tools, though workers who burr and file, and foremen,
supervisors, and general laborers, also are included in the totals.
Two plans of organization were encountered:
(1) Most common was the departmental system, in which machine
tools of one kind, such as milling machines, turret lathes, or drills, were
grouped together and parts were routed accordingly. Under this
system, within each separate machine-tool department is one kind of
machine in various sizes and makes, sometimes with a few machine
tools for supplementary operations that differ from the predom­
inating type.
The way in which such an arrangement operates may be illustrated
by a description of the departments through which several compo­
nents of a lathe pass in a firm making engine lathes and organized
along these lines. The lathe-bed castings, after being cleaned and
painted, are sent to the planers. Immediately following planing,
they are subjected to heat treating and then move to a group of large
bed-grinders. Finish planing comes next and then the drilling oper­
ation, which allows attachment of the legs of the machine to the bed.
The bed moves on finally to the assembly department, where it meets
other completed parts. Headstocks go through milling first, then
drilling and boring-mill operations, after preliminary cleaning and
painting as rough castings. From the boring mills they proceed to
assembly. Tailstocks follow the same sequence, from painting to
milling machine and drill departments, but from this point they are
directed to machines where top and bottom sections are scraped to
give a tight fit. A tailstock boring mill here takes care of the last
machining operation prior to sending on the finished tailstocks to
storage. Forgings to be made into gears are machined first on turret
lathes, then gear cutters and drills (when gears are to have oil holes).
They pass next through heat treating, and then go to internal
grinders, a bushing operation, internal grinders again, gear-tooth
grinders, and finally stock storage.
(2) In contrast with this routing of parts to the various operations,
some of the plants visited were organized on a unit system of opera­
tion in which wherever possible all the machining equipment neces­
sary for the manufacture of a unit of a machine is grouped in one
department. Some drilling, grinding, milling departments may be
maintained for the manufacture of small pieces, but the major com­
ponents, such as spindles, gears, shafts, columns, knees, and saddles,
for the most part are made complete each in its separate place.
In one milling-machine factory the knee department covered more
than 40 separate operations on the knee casting, which arrived there
directly from the cleaning and priming department. Included in the
knee department were two types of planers, three types of milling
machines, radial drills, and three types of boring bars. Another
component, the column, underwent 37 separate operations, 24 of which
were performed directly in the column department by the use of 7
different types of machine tools. These included medium and large
planers, boring bars, Kearney & Tracker special duplex and multiple
bars, horizontal knee-type milling machines, and radial drills.



For purposes of this report it seems best to discuss the machines
women operate or can operate without regard to a particular system
of plant organization. For this reason each major variety of machine
tool is considered separately and without reference to plant process
except as this affects the employment of women.
Lathe operation.
Lathes (including screw machines), drilling, grinding, and milling
machines, in that order, were the tools used in largest numbers in
the plants visited.
Engine lathes.—Lathes are the most versatile of all machine tools.
This explains why so many more of them are made and used. In
addition to ordinary turning operations, they can drill, bore, ream,
and tap straight or tapered holes, file, polish, lap, or wind springs and
electrical coils. With the use of adapters and attachments they can
perform milling and grinding operations also. The ordinary engine
lathe is made in a number of modified forms, such as turret lathes,
automatic lathes, and single-spindle automatic screw machines.
The two last mentioned are used extensively for the rapid production
of duplicate parts.
For years women have been operating engine lathes in many in­
dustries. Less than half the machine-tool plants surveyed, however,
were employing women on engine lathes at time of visit, and some
of these employed women on lathes only in the fabrication of products
other than the machine tool. Where women were operating engine
lathes in the production of machine tools they were on such models
as the LeBlond Regal and the Monarch model W. Some had been
employed only 2 or 3 weeks at time of visit, yet they were learning
to read blueprints and to do simple set-ups. Lots ranged from 100
to 1,000 pieces and required the greater part of a day for completion.
Women on the Monarch model W lathes were performing turning
operations on small rods and gear blanks. One woman was using a
Monarch to cut lead screw threads.
Most of the women operating lathes in accessories or other depart­
ments were using only small bench lathes. Several women in one
company, however, were operating specially constructed South Bend
engine lathes of fairly large size with which they were cutting the
teeth on broaches. They were required to read blueprints and mark
out their own work. Each type of cutter on which the women were
engaged had a different pitch of teeth, so they had to be able to mark
out numerous kinds of work.
Though the employment of women on engine lathes was not gen­
eral, in practically every firm visited the men interviewed agreed that
there were lathe operations in their plant to which women could be
successfully introduced. One company, not then employing women
for lathe work on machine tools, had employed a number during the
First World War, many of whom learned to do their own setting up.
Officials in another company, where women were soon to be placed
on production for the first time, were planning to introduce them
from the beginning to the small engine lathes, such as the Hendey
4Cx54 inches and Hendey Head lathe. The women will work on
small parts, and though men will do the set-up in the beginning, the
plan is gradually to teach the women to take this over. Various ad­



ditional types of lathe suitable for operation by women were seen in
the plants visited. These include among others,
Pratt & Whitney engine lathes 16 x 60 inches and 16 x 64 inches.
American engine lathe 16 x 60 inches.
American Pacemaker lathe.
Sidney engine lathe with 18-inch swing.
Reed-Prentice engine lathes (in small sizes).

Turret lathes.—Much of the work done on turret lathes in the
plants surveyed is heavy, so opportunities for women operators on
these machines appear to be limited. At time of visit only one
woman in all 15 plants was actually operating a turret lathe. This
machine was a Jones & Lamson of small size.
Four other firms, however, had made plans to employ women on
turret-lathe work. In one of these women would be expected to
operate the smaller Jones & Lamson machine and the Potter & John­
ston chucking lathe, and automatic chucking machines. Another
company was planning to have women operate Warner & Swasey
ram-type machines. Two others expected to hire women to work on
some of the Warner & Swasey saddle-type models, after introduction
of air chucks or handling equipment.
Where the work is heavy and handling equipment is not available,
rearrangement of the parts to be machined is often possible, the lighter
being routed to machines to be manned by women. Such a plan was
thought feasible in two plants in which several of the smaller Gisholt,
Jones & Lamson, and Warner & Swasey turret lathes were seen.
Special set-up men would have to be employed at first, however, since
runs are short.
A number of the men interviewed agreed generally that the ram type
of machine is suitable for women machine operators. This kind of
turret lathe is designed for smaller work and has a shorter stroke
than the larger saddle type of machine. It is easier to operate also,
since the turret is more easily moved on the ram than on the saddle.
But though the saddle type of machine is larger and somewhat more
difficult to operate, women could do the work on some of the models
with the use of power chucks to avoid the necessity for exerting great
physical strength in tightening the pieces, and with the aid of hoists
and handling equipment to move and lift the parts to be machined.
In Great Britain women are successfully operating turret lathes
adapted for chucking and bar operations even when processes arfe
varied and runs are short. It is significant further that women op­
erated turret lathes in World War I in at least two of the firms visited,
yet no women were employed on such machines by these companies at
the time of the 1942 survey.
Hand screen machines a/nd automatics.—No women were employed
on screw machines in the machine-tool plants visited, though hand
screw- machines, closely related to turret lathes, and small automatic
screw machines have been operated by women in other industries for
some time, particularly on quantity production of identical screws or
other small parts.
The setting up of automatic machines is really the most difficult
part of their operation. After the set-up has been made, such ma­
chines are, as the name implies, largely automatic. Inexperienced
workers are less easily broken in on machines of this type unless the
runs are long enough to make it feasible to employ a set-up man who



can be assigned to the care of several machines, the operator being
left only with the job of loading, unloading, and watching the ma­
chine. Many of the automatics seen in the plants visited, moreover,
were very large, and the bar stock used was large and heavy. These
considerations, and the fact that in machine-tool work the set-up is
often quite complicated, preclude the employment of women on the
larger machines and of inexperienced women on some of the smaller
Nevertheless, several of the plants visited had small machines of
the hand and automatic types which women could operate under the
conditions then observed, and in two the employment of women was
contemplated. In one of the latter, women were to be hired to operate
a small hand screw machine used for turning, forming, centering, drill­
ing, reaming, and tapping. In the other, women will be employed on
small automatics. A production supervisor in a plant not planning
to employ women on screw machines made the statement that women
could be trained to do their own set-up on small automatics and that
the hiring of women on such machines was limited largely by the size
of the bar stock that must be handled.
Milling operations.
Milling, the machining of metal by bringing it into contact with
a multiple-edged rotating cutter, includes the bobbing, cutting, and
finishing of gears and the milling of threads. Under this definition
are included both general-purpose milling machines on which various
kinds of work can be done and those restricted to the performance
of specific operations, such as gear cutting. Machines used in thread
milling or in keyway, cam, or clutch milling were seen frequently in
milling or gear-cutting departments.
Milling machines vary considerably in size as well as type. There
are small hand millers, different sizes of automatic machines, hori­
zontal and vertical machines and, finally, huge planer-type milling
machines used for work on very large parts. In the plants visited,
the planer-type machines usually were grouped with such machines
as ordinary planers, great boring mills, vertical turret lathes, and
radial drills, employed on the heaviest types of work.
It is agreed generally that women can operate easily hand milling
machines and the small- and medium-size power mills. A recent sur­
vey by the Women’s Bureau 4 of the employment of women in the
manufacture of small arms found more women working on milling
machines than on any other one type of machine. In Canadian
small-arms firms visited in an earlier survey as many as 60 percent
of the milling-machine operators were women and this proportion
was to be increased. The United States small-arms plant surveyed
that employed the largest proportion of women in factory work had
no men on hand mills, small milling machines, and medium-size mills,
except in the case of a very few operations on large parts too heavy
for women to handle. The manufacture of arms, however, is a massproduction industry.
Few women were operating milling machines in the 15 machine-tool
plants surveyed. Some were on such machines in each of 6 plants,
and in at least 2 of these plants the proportion was expected to
4 Women’s Bureau Bui. 192-3, Employment of Women in the Manufacture of Cannon
and Small Arms in 1942. 1943.



increase. In some cases many of the machines used and the opera­
tions performed were suitable for women but the employment of
women was not then anticipated.
For example, the cutter-manufacturing department of one plant
had men on Brown & Sharpe machines of the Nos. 2 and .000 types
that women are known to be operating successfully elsewhere. The
work to be done was not too heavy nor too highly skilled. In another
plant the smaller steel parts and castings were being milled by men
on, among others, Brown & Sharpe Nos. 1 and 2 machines and a
United States hand miller, all operated easily by women. The men
on these machines do their own set-up. About 75 percent of the work
in this all-male department probably could be done by women if they
were taught the set-up work. An earlier study made by the Women’s
Bureau shows that Canadian women milling antiaircraft-gun parts
set up their own machines.
In another machine-tool plant visited in the 1942 survey, a propor­
tion of the work in the milling of collets could be done by women.
Some operators on milling machines were young boys who had had
but 1 year of experience. Still another company had employed women
to operate milling machines in the earlier war. At time of survey
many of the machines in its milling department were of medium size
and it was said that women would be hired again if the labor situation
These are but examples chosen at random. They show that many
more women could operate milling machines in the machine-tool
industry. Some plants without women on such machines at time of
survey had made plans to hire them. One already using some women
on milling machines expected to employ women for Jones & Lamson
cam milling machines and small Nichols & Kempsmith hand mills.
The work would involve die manufacturing rather than milling on
machine-tool parts. Another company, one that had made a job
analysis, planned to employ women to do face, slab, straddle, slot,
and keyway milling on both vertical and horizontal milling machines.
In a number of plants much of the work to be done on milling
machines was heavy, involving the handling of heavy castings and
parts. A good deal of the work was beyond the strength of men also,
and chain hoists were being used. Women would be handicapped
further where considerable force is necessary in the use of wrenches,
mallets, and other tools for tightening and releasing work on the
machines. It is very important that work be secured so that it will
not be sprung in clamping and will be correctly alined. Some per­
sons interviewed suggested, nevertheless, that women might operate
rather large milling machines (of the No. 4 size Cincinnati type, for
example) if good handling equipment were provided and if power
chucks were placed on the machines, thus making it easy for women
to load and unload the work.
This has not been suggested in the case of the huge planer type of
milling machine. It is interesting, however, that the March 1942
issue of the Engineering Bulletin published by the British Ministry
of Labor and National Service pictures a British woman working on
a multiple-type planer-miller with which she is milling the bed of a
thread-milling machine. Doubtless this woman had mechanical and
other assistance in placing this large casting on the machine, but the



picture indicates that it is not impossible to employ women on milling
work even of this very heavy type.
Among women milling-machine operators in the machine-tool
lants visited were some on Kent-Owens and Nichols hand mills.
'hey had been on this work only 2 weeks at time of survey, yet they
were already setting up some jobs. The number of pieces per lot
varied a great deal. Some might be large enough to allow the same
set-up to be kept for as long as 2 days, but other numbers were small.
The women’s supervisor said he was well satisfied with their work.
They were employed to perform milling operations on a great variety
of bolts, nuts, rods, and other small parts. One of the women had
worked on five different jobs, ranging from 1 to 1,000 pieces per lot,
on the day before the field agent’s visit. This woman had received
158 hours of training in a defense course prior to employment.
Other women were milling gears and shafts. The employment of
women on milling machines in the department where they were work­
ing was limited only by the weight of the gears and shafts women
could handle. The gears weighed from 1 to 110 pounds and some of
the shafts weighed 60 to 70 pounds as forgings.
A few women here and there were seen operating some of the more
specialized types of milling machines. A woman was doing key way
milling on a Taylor & Fenn spline-milling machine in one plant, and
in two others women were operating Lees-Bradner and Pratt &
Whitney thread-milling machines. Foremen and production men in
several other places agreed that women could be employed in their
plants on work of this kind.
Among still other milling machines women were operating in the
plants visited were—


Cincinnati milling machine Nos. 0-8,1-12, 2.
Milwaukee milling machine Model H.
Brown & Sharpe milling machine Nos. .0, .000, 2.

Gear cutting.
Frequently there is a special department for gear-cutting opera­
tions in machine-tool plants. Gear shapers and gear hobbers were
the machines most commonly seen in such departments, though gear
rinders, gear finishers, and some miscellaneous machines of other
inds often were segregated there also.
Though only two plants were employing women to operate gear
cutters at the time of visit, several others were expecting to put
women on this kind of work. In fact, one company was considering
filling most of the jobs in the gear-cutting department with women.
Set-up men would be employed, but each woman would be expected to
tend a number of machines. The machines it was planned they would
operate included gear cutters or shapers made by Brown & Sharpe,
Fellows, Barber-Colman, Cincinnati Milling, and Newark. Accord­
ing to the analysis of a supervisor in another plant, if women were
employed they could operate, among several others, the Fellows gear
shaper No. 7 and the Gleason bevel gear rougher No. 12. In still
another place the Barber-Colman Model S bench-type hobbing ma­
chine was soon to be operated by women. The women would not do
the set-up work. There were several other companies with gear­
cutting work on which women could be employed; ordinarily, how­
ever, set-up men would be considered necessary.




It is interesting in this connection that in one of the two plants
visited where women were employed on gear cutters, each woman, in
addition to operating two to five machines, did her own set-up work.
This firm planned to hire more women for gear cutting. Those em­
ployed at the time were operating Fellows gear shapers of the 6A type
and, in addition, several gear shavers of sizes 12 to 18 inches.
Gear-cutting work was limited, of course, in firms where the ma­
chines manufactured were hydraulic rather than mechanical in oper­
ation. In fact, hydraulic machines have fewer small parts than
others have, thereby placing certain general limitations on the em­
ployment of women.
Much shaping of metal parts is done by bringing them in contact
with rotating abrasive wheels mounted on various types of grinding
machines. There are several grinding techniques. Grinding a hole
involves internal grinding ; shaping the outside of a rotating piece,
external cylindrical grinding; and finishing a flat surface, surface
grinding. The grinding process also includes polishing, buffing, and
lapping operations that are performed by means of specially drfessed
rotating wheels.
Numerous types and sizes of internal, external cylindrical, and
surface grinders were being used in the machine-tool plants visited.
In addition, there were many specialized types of grinding machines
such as disk grinders, thread grinders, and gear grinders, as well as a
variety of tool and cutter grinders and sharpening machines for
grinding and sharpening drills, milling cutters, reamers, and other
Rough-grinding operations may be done on certain machine-tool
parts during the early or intermediate stages of manufacture, but a
great deal of grinding is done as a finishing operation. Finishing
is precision work that must be done to very close tolerances. Inept­
ness in such work may cause great waste of material, time, and effort.
NeverthelesSj in the plants visited women were employed to a greater
extent in grinding operations than in any other kind of machining.
In addition to various lapping and polishing devices, some typical
grinding machines women were using include:
Arter rotary surface grinder.
Brown & Sharpe external grinder No. 5.
Brown & Sharpe surface grinder No. 2.
Cincinnati cutter and tool grinder No. 2.
Ex-Cell-0 thread grinder.
Heald rotary surface grinder No. 22.
Norton cylindrical grinders 10 x 36 inches and 10 x 48 inches.
Norton surface grinder 10 x 60 inches.

In one plant more than 30 women were grinding involute cutters
and gears. They operated two machines each on both dry and wet
grinding, performed their own set-ups, and dressed their wheels.
The work done by women on the day shift was performed by men
at night. It had taken the women about 2 months on the job to
learn the set-up work. The same firm employed a woman to grind
tapers on shanks with a Brown & Sharpe No. 5 external grinder.
She was doing her own set-up and was allowed practically no
tolerance, according to the plant official interviewed. In another
plant several women who were form grinding also set up their own



work. Each new set-up had at least to be checked for every tool
ground and the tolerance allowed was but .0002 inch. Women doing
wet grinding on machine-tool parts by means of small Arter rotary
surface grinders were performing their own set-up work also. In
another company women on Norton 10 x 60-inch surface grinders
were at first allowed a tolerance of .0005 inch, but later were upgraded
to more difficult work on which they were permitted only .0002 inch
leeway. One of them, employed only 10 weeks at time of survey,
was already performing a complicated set-up involving compound
angles and requiring the use of sine bars and Jo blocks.
Other women were doing various types of internal, face, and form
grinding on small cylindrical, internal, or surface grinders and on
tool-sharpening machines, while a few were performing lapping,
polishing, and buffing operations.
In addition to the work they were already doing and the jobs soon
to be opened to them women could take over a great many more of
the grinding operations performed in the machine-tool plants visited.
There was much tool- and cutter-grinding and grinding on small parts
to be done with the use of such machines as small Rivett internal
grinders, Landis external grinders, Brown & Sharpe external grind­
ers, small Thompson and Heald machines, and the like, work of the
sort that women were doing already in some of the plants. One firm
was employing men on a Brown & Sharpe No. 5 plain grinder, a
machine specially built for women to operate while seated. Addi­
tional opportunities for the employment of women on the lighter work
appeared so numerous, in fact, that it hardly seems worth while to
note also that some heavier kinds' of jobs being done in the plants
surveyed are not beyond women’s capacity to perform. For example,
in one firm where many small parts were ground at once on large
Blanchard grinders, the work can be done by women. In another,
large surface, external, and internal grinders could be operated by
women with the installation of certain handling equipment. Some
types of precision work, however, would have to wait till women had
experience and were ready for upgrading. It is of interest in this
connection that women are already doing such heavy and skilled work
as surface grinding on turret-lathe saddles in Great Britain. One
woman on such a job is pictured in a recent issue of the Engineering
Bulletin. Her work requires absolute parallelism, the limit of error
being .0005 inch. The application of cut must be delicate so that dis­
tortion due to increased temperature is avoided.
Grinding is an extremely hazardous occupation unless precautions
are taken to protect the operator from the dust that is generated or
from other flying particles. The hoods now generally provided,
especially on the newer machines, help to prevent injury from pieces
flying out or from possible breakage of the wheel. Danger from the
metallic dust is prevented by wet grinding, in which the cutting takes
place under a stream of water or oil. Some but not all of the grinding
in machine-tool plants is done by the wet process. Where there is
dry grinding, adequate exhaust systems should be provided. Satis­
factory standards for such systems have been set up in various State
codes. Those of Ohio and Illinois affect a considerable proportion
of the machine-tool firms.5
s See also American Engineering Standards Safety Code for the Use, Care and Protection
of Abrasive Wheels. Approved by the American Standards Association. New York 1935,
36 pp.



Until recently the employment of women on dry grinding has been
prohibited in Ohio except for occasional tool grinding. Since the law
forbids the hiring of women to operate, specifically, emery and
corundum wheels and belts coated with emery or corundum, it has
been ruled, in the interest of the war effort, that women may now be
employed on aloxite, carborundum, alundum, or any type of wheel
other than emery or corundum. This modified interpretation of the
law, however, does not permit hiring women to do snagging or heavy
grinding, or grinding operations requiring constant standing. The
operation of buffing or polishing wheels is still forbidden. Actually,
investigation by the Women’s Bureau of occupations suitable for
women in war production reveals that in plants with good dustcollection methods and other adequate protection the occupations of
grinding, polishing, and buffing are among the most desirable jobs
for women.6
Drilling and other types of boring operations such as reaming,
tapping, countersinking, and counterboring on single- and multiplespindle drill presses are occupations women commonly have held in
Though many of the drills in machine-tool plants are large ma­
chines principally of the radial type, there are numerous drills of
other kinds that women could operate before it would be necessary
to hire them for the larger radial drills. Some women were operat­
ing single- and multiple-spindle drill presses in six of the eight plants
where women were on productive work. More women could have
been employed on drill presses in these plants. Four companies with
no women on drilling operations were planning to hire them. In one
of these women were to operate multiple-spindle drills and would
be trained gradually to set up the machines and sharpen the cutting
tools. In another, they were to be hired for drilling operations,
including jig drilling and counterboring on an upright Prentice drill
and for light work on sensitive drill presses at which they might be
seated. On the machines last named women were to perform jig
drilling or their work would be laid out for them. The same com­
pany was planning to employ some women for lay-out work also.
This work involves a knowledge of mathematics, the reading of blue­
prints, and the use of scribers, dividers, squares, surface gages, and
the like.
In addition, examples were noted of drill work altogether suit­
able for women in plants where women were not then employed in
such work or no plans had been made for the introduction of women.
One firm had a department in which small and large parts were
being routed separately to drill presses allocated by size on the fac­
tory floor. There were small and medium-size drills in this depart­
ment that women could have operated easily. Another firm had a
division set aside for work on the smaller parts and castings in which
drill presses that women could operate were located. All the ma­
chine workers in the department did their own set-up, work for
which women could be trained. Still another plant had multiple• Women’s Bureau Special Bui. 7, Hazards to Women Employed in War Plants on
Abrasive-Wheel Jobs. 1942.



spindle drills on which a considerable amount of small work was
being done, such as the drilling and counterboring of taper screws.
Much of the work was jig drilling and some of the lots consisted of
several hundred pieces.
It is evident that the employment of women in machine-tool plants
to operate sensitive drills and other small and medium types of


single- and multiple-spindle table drills could be considerably ex­
tended, though these types of machines are not so numerous in the
industry as the heavier models. Women could be hired later to
operate radial and heavy single- and multiple-spindle drills on larger
parts with the aid of handling equipment. Officials in two plants



agreed at time of visit that women could operate the smaller radials
with 3- to 4-foot beam. British women already are operating the
heavy radial drills.
Planers are used widely in the machine-tool industry for heavy
work on major castings such as the beds of machines. Sometimes
many castings of smaller size are set up on large planers to be ma­
chined all at the same time, a process known as gang planing. To
do such work, many of the planers are very large. One planer was
seen that had a work capacity of 84 x 84 inches x 40 feet. Castings
to be placed on such a machine may weigh thousands of pounds.
Because of the size of the planers and the parts to be machined
on them, most of the firms visited were giving no consideration to
the employment of women on planer work. Yet the director of the
NYA machine-shop training school in Cincinnati was already, at
the time of visit to machine-tool firms in the vicinity, training women
to operate planers after boys had done the heavy lifting and set-up.
In addition, an official of one of the plants surveyed stated that since
one man cannot load the planers alone, two men and one woman
could conveniently be employed as a team. His company already
was having to train boys, so the fact that women were inexperienced
would make no difference. One objection that has been raised to the
employment of women on planers is that it requires skill to see that
the bed of the machine is not twisted. The same company official
was convinced that this is a matter not so much of skill as of
The superintendent of another plant said that some planing jobs
in his company last one or two full days. He saw no reason why
women could not tend the planers after men had set up the work.
The women’s part of the job would include also the use of calipers,
verniers, scales, and the like for taking measurements, and enough
knowledge of the work to be able to detect when the tool had be­
come dull. The planers in the perishable-tools division of one of the
machine-tool plants visited were only of moderate size. Here too
the plant superintendent thought that women could be employed with
the aid of set-up men to do the heavy work of getting the pieces
into a level position and properly set into the machine. Even with
the aid of handling equipment, this may involve much manual labor
and the use of heavy wrenches and hand tools.
Women are already operating and setting up the smaller planers
in British machine-tool plants, and in one of the factories visited in
this country by Women’s Bureau agents a woman had been employed
as a planer operator in the First World War.
Miscellaneous work in machining departments.
Shaping is like planing except that in the former the tool moves
over a stationary piece of work and in the latter the work moves
back and forth beneath the tool. Shapers are generally much smaller
than planers, being made more for small and medium-size work.
Shaping machines on which the cutting tool moves vertically rather
than horizontally are known as slotters. Shaping can generally be
done by women, but except in two cases the few shapers and slotters
in the machine-tool plants visited were operated by men. The women



employed were operating and setting up small Hendey shapers in
a machine-tool-accessory department. At time of visit one of the
firms with no women productive workers was considering the em­
ployment of women on both small and large slotters or vertical
The boring mills seen in the plants surveyed were heavy-duty
machines usually placed in the same department as the planers or
other large machines on which various operations on major castings
or heavy forgings were being performed. The work to be done on
these machines generally was considered too heavy and highly skilled
for women. It should be mentioned, however, that women are oper­
ating horizontal boring mills in the British iron and steel industry.
There are, of course, very many opportunities for women on lighter
work for which they are not currently or generally employed in the
machine-tool industry in the United States. These should be ex­
plored first.
Simple operations involving burnishing and polishing, burring, and
filing are among such opportunities. Though a few of the firms
visited had women on these types of work, several were employing
men. Some of the men, to be sure, were older workers who were
no longer able to do the heavier tasks. This shows good use of the
available manpower. But many were able-bodied men and boys.
A variety of work may be done in toolrooms, including tool repair
on plant equipment, experimental work, and the manufacture of jigs,
fixtures, and other tools for machines used in the plant and for ma­
chines sold to customers. Usually there are machines of all kinds
because of the diversity of the work.
Many of the toolroom employees are highly skilled men, able to
operate more than one machine on jobs requiring the closest of toler­
ance and most intricate of set-up. For this reason a number of the
machine-tool plants visited reported that women could not be em­
ployed. Not all the work in toolrooms, however, requires consider­
able skill. In one of the machine-tool plants visited two women were
operating small lathes. Ope of them sometimes laid out locators for
holes to be drilled. The" company was planning to employ more
women in the toolroom, some to be taken from a group then in a
training course consisting of special instruction on one type of ma­
chine. The all-round toolroom work requiring the use of a variety
of machines would continue to be done by men. In another plant
one woman assisted a man in checking lead screws on a Carl Zeiss
machine. Another in the same firm assisted in making sketches of
tools that required repairing. Other women in this toolroom oper­
ated single machines including cylindrical grinders, tool and cutter
grinders, a heavy-duty miller, and engine lathes. The men operated
all types of machines, some of them the same as those operated by
the women. In a third plant four women were working to very close
tolerances on single machines; they performed their own set-up.
Two were on Landis Universal cylindrical grinders, type C, one on
a Brown & Sharpe surface grinder No. 2, and one on an Abrasive
wet-surface grinder No. 3B.



In the three companies in which these cases were cited it has
evidently been possible to organize toolroom work so that some
employees need operate only one machine. Where such an arrange­
ment can be made, the employment of relatively inexperienced work­
ers, men or women, is possible. As a matter of fact, a fourth com­
pany was planning at the time of visit to employ a considerable
number of women in the toolroom as a result of an occupational
analysis of the work and plans for dilution consisting in large part
of providing set-up men. Some of the women to be hired would
rough-grind on flat-form and cut-off tools and spacers with a surface
grinder having a magnetic chuck. Some would use a surface grinder
on tool posts, wedges, and ratchets. Others would mill knurls, form
tools, dovetail tools, and the like. These are but a few of the tool­
room operations it was expected women would perform in this plant.
In another, boys with only trade-school experience had been started
on cutter grinding in the toolroom; women could easily do this work.
Women could take over not only the easier and less-skilled jobs in
toolrooms if the work is adjusted to their limitation as machinists,
but they could be upgraded to perform toolroom operations requiring
considerable skill. They have been doing such work in Great Britain
at least since 1941.
The organization and arrangement of inspection work differs from
plant to plant. Some companies employ floor inspectors who go
through the departments and inspect any work that appears to need
checking. These and others may provide also for the inspection of
the first piece of each lot. Some firms have inspection centers where
the work done in certain departments is thoroughly inspected before
it is sent on for further processing in others. A combination of any
of these methods may prevail and, in addition, final inspection of all
parts may be made before delivery to the stockroom.
All companies provide for the final inspection of completed ma­
chines. Ordinarily this is handled by a separate inspection force
working on the erecting floor. The work often involves also test
running after assembly. It requires special skill and experience and
therefore is kept in the hands of experienced men. None of the
machine-tool plants visited were considering women to do this kind
of inspection. It was being contemplated, however, by an official
in one Ordnance District at the time of visit and it is said of one of
the machine-tool plants that newcomers are showing such surprising
aptitude that they will soon qualify for this work.
Plants with subcontractors usually have a force assigned to the
inspection of incoming parts. Sometimes, however, it has been found
necessary to set up field inspection at the place of manufacture.
Women inspectors were employed in most of the plants visited in
which women were engaged in productive work. None were em­
ployed as line or general inspectors, usually highly skilled workmen
who can perform any kind of inspection work. The women were
doing in-process inspection; a few, final inspection of small parts.
Most read blueprints and used such precision instruments as microme­
ters, calipers, scales, dial indicators, and various types of gages.



Gears were inspected by means of such devices as microscopes, com­
parators, checking gages, cone machines, and Red Liner machines.
Though a few plants put much of the responsibility for certain kinds
of inspection on department foremen or group leaders, most employed
a considerable group devoted exclusively to inspection work. Where
this was true, there were many operations on which men were em­
ployed for which •women could have been hired. In one plant a good
deal of gear checking was necessary. The work was done with a Red
Ring gear checker and Red Liner gear recorder, machines a woman
could operate easily. There were men detail inspectors also whose
place women could have taken. In another plant women could have
been trained to do a considerable proportion of the inspection work,
much of which took place in numerous inspection centers and some in
the gear-cutting department. Since the Women’s Bureau visit to this
plant women have been put on this work and several other firms have
planned to employ women for inspection, mostly of small parts, some
of it to be performed on subcontracted goods. Where women already
are working as inspectors, their numbers could in most cases be greatly
Detailed and careful inspection is a field in which women have long
excelled in many industries. Women have been found exceedingly
conscientious, painstaking, and accurate in inspection work. This is
the kind of employment in which they are said frequently to surpass
men. The foremen in one of the machine-tool companies where they
were employed as inspectors reported that women picked up the work
faster than men, followed instructions better, and were more careful in
making precision measurements and checks. The total number of
experienced male inspectors needed by many firms could be reduced
considerably if women were employed generally to check all the small
parts in inspection centers. Women could check heavier parts also
when lifting is not required and later could be upgraded to the more
highly skilled branches of the work.
Inspectors’ training is easily acquired and can be taken conveniently
in defense training classes. Instruction in the use of measuring
instruments, the reading of blueprints, and shop mathematics was
available in several machine-tool centers at the time of visit through
various types of public vocational schools, or schools operated under
private auspices. A complete course specially set up for inspectors’
training was being given in Worcester, Mass., by two trade schools.
Such instruction is effective not only in presenting the needed material
to the student, but in giving her ease and familiarity with the instru­
ments. One must have practice in the use of a micrometer, for
example, as well as knowledge of how to read it, since accuracy
depends in part on getting the “feel” of the instrument. One of the
firms visited had introduced an inspection course within the plant for
those who qualified after one week of vestibule-school training. The
trainees were taught the use of gages and measuring instruments,
shop mathematics, and blueprint reading, and learned on the job also.
They were put to work inspecting parts made in outside shops.
These usually were received in large lots and so gave the new in­
spector practice on repetitive work. After a few inspection operations
on a single part were explained, the newcomers could work for a
considerable time, thus acquiring skill while being productively



Assembling of the many parts, large and small, that go into the
complete precision instrument, the machine tool, is an extremely
important part of its manufacture and one that claims a large pro­
portion of the workers in the plant. In the machine-tool firms
visited, assembly work occupied more employees than any other part
of the manufacturing process except machining. It accounted for
15 percent of all those employed in the 13 plants reported and nearly
24 percent of the productive workers.
The fit of the many small parts and major units of the machine tool
must be so carefully and expertly produced that the tool functions
smoothly and to the required close tolerances. If this is not the case,
all the previous labor is lost. The assembly process demands precise
leveling of the machine on the assembly floor, the exact alinement of
various units with each other, and then many fitting operations
involving scraping, filing, tapping, and other hand and machine
As assembly is customarily organized, one man does a considerable
variety of the work. Because of the skill required under such an
arrangement and also because of the heavy parts to be handled, plant
officials interviewed generally considered it unlikely that women could
be employed in final assembly or erecting departments and, in many
cases, on subassembly work also.
In most plants some units are assembled separately and then
attached to the machines during final assembly. Among the sub­
assemblies being made in some of the firms visited were gear boxes,
headstocks, tailstocks, taper attachments, aprons, feed shafts, spindle
heads, and control levers. When one man assembles an entire unit,
he must have considerable skill and experience, proficiency with a
good many hand tools, ability to do a variety of bench operations,
and in addition a certain amount of physical strength, since some of
the parts to be handled are much heavier than others.
But in many cases it is unnecessary that so many operations be
performed by one person. The all-round job of the skilled assembler
may be broken down into components, and when this is done, espe­
cially in the case of subassembly, many inexperienced women may be
employed. Women were already working as assemblers in two of
the plants visited by Women’s Bureau agents and in both the number
was to be increased. Another plant had made plans to employ
women on subassembly very shortly. Some of the women already
employed were filing, burring, and polishing with emery cloth, and
they were using hand drills and small arbor presses on such units as
the feed shaft, feed box, apron, and head-cover unit. The lighter
work had been separated from the heavier in one plant so that women
could be employed; in fact, the work had been so arranged that
women were not required to handle any parts weighing more than
18 pounds. Men were working on heavier pieces and on operations
requiring greater skill. In another plant women assemblers were
doing not only the kinds of simple and light operations already men­
tioned, but in addition some had been given the responsibility of
assembling parts of subassemblies. For example, they were assem­
bling the cross-feed screw nuts, “building” the taper attachment shoes,



making the lever and hand assemblies, and, in connection with the
gear box, fitting the gears on small shafts, assembling shoes, hand
reaming and hand tapping, filing, and painting the inside of the box.
Women assemblers had proved so satisfactory here that a large pro­
portion of the women to be taken on in the future were to be placed
in the assembly department. At the time of survey, 7 in every 10
women productive workers in this plant were on assembly jobs.
The few companies that acknowledged that women could assist in
subassembly operations were not the only ones where a considerable
amount of light assembly work requiring only moderate, little, or no
skill was observed. In one plant 6 men were employed in the sub­
assembly department doing nothing but filing and burring. Women
could take over this work on the lighter pieces. In another, where
attachments were being assembled by men, much of the filing and
polishing and the lighter assembly work could be done by women.
Men were drilling holes and putting in bushings as part of the sub­
assembly work in another firm; women could do this. One company
had an entire department devoted to tool assembly in which there
was a considerable amount of light work women could do, especially
if some of the operations were broken down. In the same plant there
were a great many small and light bench jobs in connection with
machine-tool subassembly on which women could be employed im­
mediately. As the work was then arranged, one man might handle
some jobs during the course of a day which would be too heavy or
too difficult for a woman, but simple planning would permit the re­
lease of numbers of men and the employment of women in their
places. The foregoing are but a few examples taken at random.
Unless the work is greatly diluted, there is admittedly little that
the average woman can do at present in the final assembly or erecting
departments, except on the smaller machines. The work is generally
too heavy and too highly skilled. Women can put in oil lines, how­
ever, and, as they already are doing in one plant, they can clean and
polish the completed machines. In some cases there may be full-time
bench work that women could do in connection with final assembly.
One of the companies visited was planning to employ women final
assemblers on the smallest machines they manufacture, to do light
fitting as well as polishing and cleaning. Some consideration was
being given there also to hiring women as part of a group to perform
certain additional operations. It was suggested that one woman and
two men might work together. This is similar to the plan in a large
machine-tool factory in the Midlands of England where, working
with men in gangs, women help to assemble the machines by fitting
keys, tapping holes, and even scraping surfaces and bearings.
Considerable hand scraping is necessary in machine-tool assembly
in order to “true up” flat surfaces or prevent “rock” between two
parts that are to be attached. When red lead is smeared on the
surfaces to be scraped and the two surfaces are rubbed together, the
“high spots” on the metal can be detected. These are then removed
by applying pressure with a hand scraping tool. The process of
smearing red lead over the surface and of scraping off the high spots
may have to be repeated many times. Scraping large surfaces is very
hard work and too strenuous for the average woman, but women can



scrape smaller pieces. As a matter of fact, one of the firms visited
that employed women to do scraping in the earlier war has placed the
job of “light scraping on small parts” on its summary of occupations
for which women may be employed, when finally taken on, in the
present war. Another company also has suggested light scraping as
a possible job for women. An instance was cited in each of two
plants, however, of a woman who tried scraping but found it too
difficult. In one case the woman had to lift a surface plate to rub it
over the surface to be scraped. The plate was too heavy for her to
lift as often as was necessary in the performance of her work. If a
hoist had been available, the actual scraping might not have proved
too difficult.
Women are doing heavy as well as light scraping in Great Britain.
Reports from one British machine-tool plant show women doing the
majority of the scraping; four women divide the job on the 30-foot
bed of a planer-miller. In another British plant women scrape lathe
beds and bed-in the saddle, cross slide, and other movable parts of
the machine.. The operations on the cross slide are particularly
difficult in that two pairs of flat surfaces and one oblique pair have to
make contact on each side at the same time. After 8 months on the
job one woman was able to grind and stone her own scrapers and had
trained eight other women in the work.
Assembly operations involve, in addition to scraping and fitting, a
certain amount of electrical work, such as wiring and the installation
of motors and switch boxes. In some plants maintenance electricians
do this work, but in others the electrical assembly is handled by a
separate group of workers. The wiring of switch boxes and other
light electrical operations noticed in several firms were said to require
more skill than the average inexperienced woman would have.
Actually, however, two companies already were employing women
on electrical assembly work at the time of visit and one other was
preparing to take on a number of women for electric-panel wiring.
In both plants where they were already employed, the women were
doing typical electrical assembly bench work consisting of wiring
panel boxes, soldering, cutting wires, attaching wires to terminals,
and the like. One of the companies had employed women in this
work for more than 2 years. The other was intending to employ
more women on electrical work as the men in the department were
drafted. The company where women were soon to begin panel
wiring had already constructed the work tables, which contained
pigeon holes for the various parts to be used. It was planned to have
the women follow numbered diagrams that had been broken down and
simplified by the plant’s engineering department. Several factories
were visited in which much the same technique could be used or
special supervision could be provided for women, thereby releasing a
number of men for more skilled or heavier work. In two of these,
young boys were doing the electric-panel wiring. In contrast, one
plant in Great Britain is reported to employ women to do the com­
plete wiring job on two sizes of turret lathes. The operation includes
wiring a 4-speed motor and speed change gear and it entails also
soldering lugs to the wires and fitting conduits. The women work
from diagrams.



There were several nonproductive departments in the machinetool plants visited in which women could have been much more ex­
tensively employed. These include the general and shop offices and
the tool cribs. In the plants visited women comprised only 4 in
10 of all the workers in the central office. The proportion varied,
however, from 13 percent in one plant to 64 percent in another.
In every plant the proportion could have been greater. This is a
sphere in which women’s competence usually is unquestioned and
one in which there are women who can immediately qualify for the
more responsible as well as the routine jobs, thus making it possible
to replace numerous men who could be employed more advantageously
in the armed services or in technical or skilled work.
In the machine-tool factories visited, few women were employed
as timekeepers, clerks in production departments, tracers, stock clerks,
and the like. In some companies the claim was made that stock chas­
ing in particular is a man’s job because it requires intimate acquain­
tance with the business, enabling the employee to find parts and take
them to the proper departments on his own initiative. It is true, of
course, that stock chasing may be a much more responsible job and,
especially when combined with other work, a heavier job, in some
plants than in others. Certainly, however, with planning and direc­
tion, in almost every plant some women could participate in it.
Without question women could take over most of the other factory
clerical jobs, including timekeeping.
Only three of the firms surveyed employed women as tool-crib
attendants. In one of these the women were known as tool dispatchers,
since in connection with their tool-supply work they took the tools
to the machine operators so that the hitter need not leave their ma­
chines. Where heavy jigs and fixtures must be lifted from the shelves,
some men would have to be employed, but women could do most of
the work as all that it requires is acquaintance with the tools and
their places in the crib. Women have been very apt in learning this
job in other industries. The many tool cribs in a large airplane-en­
gine plant recently visited by Women’s Bureau agents are manned
almost entirely by women.
The three lines of work just discussed—general office, shop office,
and tool crib—claimed in the 13 plants reported about 8,000 workers,
of whom not quite one-third were women. Yet women could have
filled well over half and perhaps the great majority of the jobs, thus
freeing many hundreds of men in these plants alone.
There are considerably fewer workers employed in gage inspec­
tion, laboratory work, experimental design, pattern making, or fac­
tory supervision in machine-tool plants. Further, most of the oc­
cupations involved in such work ordinarily require extensive back­
ground, skill, and experience, thereby precluding the immediate em­
ployment of women in most cases. Some women are adequately quali­
fied to take over gage inspection and certain kinds of laboratory work,
but practically none were employed. To be sure, the total number
of employees affected would be very small. In connection with pat­
tern making, women could serve as helpers and after a while as
plain pattern makers. In Great Britain they are disk sanding, band



sawing, shellacking and painting patterns, and putting in the many
screws and nails required. It is interesting that in one of the Ameri­
can machine-tool plants visited in which a schedule of jobs to be
opened to women had been drawn up, the occupation of plain pattern
maker was included in the original list. Women will not be employed
in this work at first, however.
With so few women employed in the plants 'visited even in un­
skilled and semiskilled productive jobs, it is perhaps visionary at this
juncture to suggest foremanship as a possible job for women. But
where sizable groups of women are already working, as in small-tools
departments and inspection centers, women supervisors are by no
means out of the question, and as women gain in numbers in machinetool production it is all the more feasible that some be upgraded to
supervisory work. As a matter of fact, according to one plant super­
intendent there are some supervisory jobs that do not require a great
deal of technical knowledge. He said women could start in such work
and, as they proved capable, be advanced to supervision requiring
more background and ability. British factories have had very favor­
able experience with women “charge hands.” They have found
supervision of women by women in many cases more successful than
male supervision, for several reasons: Charges of male favoritism
then disappear; the worker gains confidence from seeing that another
woman has become expert on the work she is asked to perform; and
the woman supervisor remembers where her difficulties lay in her
comparatively recent experience as a learner.
Factory maintenance, receiving and shipping, service and stock
work claim a not inconsiderable proportion of the total personnel,
but few of the jobs could be taken over by women. The maintenance
work demands highly skilled millwrights, electricians, carpenters, tin­
smiths, and the like, usually older men. Receiving and shipping in­
volves packing and crating the finished machines and other work too
heavy for women. Women could be employed, however, to pack and
ship the smaller accessories in companies where these are made in
addition to the machine tools. At the time of visit one company
was planning to employ women for this work. Women could also be
hired for the clerical work in receiving and shipping departments
and as counters and checkers. Two of the firms in the survey em­
ployed several women to keep stock records and in two companies
women were handling the lighter types of stores.
Service work includes factory housekeeping and, in addition, such
jobs as tiuckmg and crane operating. Women could be employed in
all three capacities, though very few were seen and in only two firms,
where they served as janitresses. Another company was considering
the possibility of taking women on for light cleaning. Certainly
women could serve generally as chipmen, collecting the metal scraps
that come from the machines as they operate. The boxes used to hold
the chips should not require lifting, but should be transported from
place to place on wheels or rollers. Women could drive small electric
trucks within the plant if seats were provided for the operators and
they could handle many of the cranes used in machine-tool plants.
They are driving cranes in other industries in this country and women
in Great Britain are known to be operating cranes with a lifting power
of 10 to 40 tons. In fact, crane driving is now virtually a woman’s
job there.



Factory employees in machine-tool manufacture are working longer
hours than those in almost any other war industry. The average
workweek over the period October 1942 to February 1943 was between
53 and 54 hours.
This situation stemmed from the tremendous speed-up that took
place in the industry when war began in Europe, making it difficult
to secure workers and to set up a second and especially a third shift.
A number of firms, therefore, operated 2 long shifts instead of 3
shorter ones. But even in plants with 3 shifts, the hours tended to
be long. About half the companies visited operated 3 shifts, but in
only one of those was a 48-hour week scheduled for men at time of
visit. The weekly hours of men in the remaining 3-shift plants
ranged from 52 to 60. In most cases hours for men exceeded those
for women; in all but one plant at least 52 hours a week, and in
several plants a scheduled week of 60 hours or more, was customary.
Women, on the other hand, were employe^ 48' hours or less in 6 of the
8 plants in which they were engaged in factory work. In the other
2 firms the hours were the same for women as for men, 11 hours a
day and 55 hours a week on the first shift, lll-t, hours daily and 57%
hours weekly on the second. (Only one of these firms employed
women on the second shift.) Two weeks in eight all workers were on
a 6-day instead of a 5-day week, the daily hours remaining the same;
the averages over the year thus became respectively almost 58 hours
and just over 60 hours. Exemption from their State hour law pro­
viding that women be employed no longer than 50 hours weekly or
9 daily had been allowed these firms.
Except for the two cases just cited and an 8^-hour schedule on
one second shift, women were working 7(A or 8 hours daily, but in
few cases were men on the 8-hour day. Furthermore, in most plants
where men worked but 7l/2 or 8 hours a day they were expected to
put in a 7-day week. In some instances the men were assigned 71/2
or 8 hours one or more days in the week, but 10, 11%? or 12 hours
the remaining days.
These hours are long in comparison with the recommended 40-hour
week for peacetime and the 8-hour day and 48-hour week recom­
mended for sustained efficiency in wartime by the War and Navy
Departments, the Maritime Commission, Public Health Service, War
Manpower Commission, and other interested Federal agencies. The
consensus is that though hours in excess of 48 a week have been neces­
sary in some instances because of a limited supply of supervisory and
skilled manpower, there has been a tendency to continue the longer
schedules after sufficient opportunity has been afforded to train addi­
tional workers. A committee representing eight Government agen­
cies interested in maximum production recommends that plants
employing workers longer than 48 hours weekly analyze their situa­
tion with respect to output and time lost because of absenteeism,
acknowledged to be due chiefly to accidents, illness, and fatigue.
The 8-hour day and 48-hour week does not prevent round-the-clock
and 7-day operation.
Most of the plants visited approximated the goal of 24-hour pro­
duction with a variety of shift schedules organized on the basis of



either 2 or 3 shifts. Long daily hours were in two instances tempered
by 2 days off after 6 days on the job. In one plant where women
were employed 11 hours daily, they worked 3 days and were then off
1 day. In some cases, as already stated, there were 4 or 5 long days
combined with 1 or 2 short days. Two plants scheduled the first
shift for 2 days of 12 hours and 4 days of 8 hours in a 6-day week.
These are but a few examples from a wide assortment of shift
schedules and practices, most of them directed toward production for
all or most of the 24 hours, combined with adequate maintenance
time, and, where women were employed, adjustment to the statutory
requirements of the various States regarding women’s hours. How­
ever, though the plants were generally operating round the clock, the
great majority of the men as well as the women were on the first
shift, illustrating that full utilization of plant facilities had not been
achieved at the time of the Women’s Bureau visit. Over half (52i/2
percent) of all the men and 84 percent of all the women in the plants
reporting were on the first shift and only about 17 percent of the
men and 8 percent of the women were on the third. Rotation was
not generally practiced.
A weekly day of rest was the rule in most of the companies. In
several, 2 days were customary after 5 long days of work. Though
in no instance were women required to work more than 6 days in 7,
in three plants men were on a full 7-day workweek. In one of these
the men were given one day off every 3 weeks, the time being made
up on that day by each of the other shifts working 4 extra hours.
In another, an 8-hour day was considered sufficient offset for the day
of rest. Some of the men in the third company were on 9-, 10-, and
11-hour shifts and in addition worked a 7-day week. The War and
Navy Departments recommend that “Only in extreme emergencies
and for a limited period of time should workers or supervisors
forego the weekly day of rest.” They assert, with other Government
departments interested in maximum output, that the 7-day workweek
is injurious to health, morale, and production.
At least a 30-minute meal period, a necessity from the standpoint
of the worker’s health and efficiency, was customarily allowed men
as well as women in most of the companies in the survey. In a few
cases, however, men were required to eat their lunch in 10, 15, or 20
minutes, or as time permitted on the job. Some plants provided, in
addition to meal periods, regularly scheduled rest periods of 10 or
15 minutes morning and afternoon. These are particularly helpful
in preventing excessive fatigue and thereby increasing efficiency.
Methods and rates of pay.
The principle of equal pay to women who are doing similar or the
same work as men was not generally in force in the machine-tool
firms visited, at least as far as entrance rates were concerned. Only
one of the eight firms in which women were employed on productive
work operated under this principle. In the others, women entered at
5 or 10 cents less per hour than men. Women’s entrance rates ranged
from 40 to 60 cents, men’s from 50 to 65 cents in the firms hiring both
men and women. Furthermore, because of their very recent accession
to the labor force, women in most cases had not advanced beyond
their starting rates.
The reasons given for the sex differential varied. Some firm offi­
cials said that women required more supervision—that they had no



background or experience in mechanical work; others that they did
not work so long a shift as men because of State maximum-hours pro­
visions; some that they must prove their efficiency first; and so on.
One company had in the beginning given women the same entrance
rate as men, but the men complained, and as a result the men’s begin­
ning rate was raised 5 cents.
It is the considered stand of the National War Labor Board and
the Women’s Bureau that to maintain all-round industrial efficiency
and industrial democracy women should be paid the rate for the job
and that rate should be set without regard to whether a man or a
woman will perform it.'1 It is significant in this connection that one
of the machine-tool companies showing a differential in the summer
of 1942 was, early in the fall, directed by the War Labor Board to
standardize and simplify its wage schedules and to include in its
agreement with the International Association of Machinists, A. F. L.,
a clause adopting the principle of the same pay to women who, “in
comparable jobs, produce work of the same quantity and quality as
that performed by men.” In its written opinion the Board stated
specifically that to be specially guarded against is the procedure of
cutting women’s rates when the extra labor introduced for heavy
work, setting up, and so forth, does not increase the unit cost of pro­
duction. It has often been found that the hiring of a special set-up
man or moveman for a group of workers may actually reduce unit
costs of operation, even though hourly rates arc maintained.
Most of the machine-tool plants visited operated under wage plans
involving a base rate plus some form of individual or group incen­
tive scheme or production bonus. In 5 of the 15 companies a straight
time rate only was paid, and in 1 a straight piece rate, the rate being
guaranteed for the job in all factory occupations except inspection
and stock-chasing. Where piece rates were set in connection with
a production bonus, they generally were computed on the basis of
job classification and requirements, the same rate being paid regard­
less of the sex of the worker. But since the base rates were not alike,
the sex differential remained.
A regular wage-advancement policy was in effect in 7 of the 15
plants surveyed and in 3 of those reporting women operatives. In
general, the scheduled raises were given in 5-cent intervals until the
job rate was reached. The total advancement amounted in most
cases to 10 cents an hour. In two plants where the entrance rates for
men and women differed, only the women were raised until they
reached the starting rate for men. After the job rate was reached,
in plants where regular pay raises were made and in companies where
no regular advancement was provided for, increases were given usu­
ally on an individual basis, depending on foremen’s recommendations
with regard to efficiency and merit, length of service, and the like.
Special wage differentials generally were paid all those employed
on the evening and night shifts. In two plants this amounted to as
much as 20 percent above the worker’s regular rate. In most cases,
however, it was a matter of 10 percent or 5 cents an hour, the bonus
being generally the same for the third shift as for the second. Only
1 of the 15 firms visited did not pay a shift differential.
7 See Women’s Bureau Bui. 196, “Equal Pay” for Women In War Industries.




Recruiting, training, upgrading.
The machine-tool plants employing women in the shop did not
make very rigid requirements of women recruits. None of them
insisted on previous shop experience. Furthermore, though defense
training courses were available to women in each of the towns where
the plants visited are situated and many women already hired had
attended them, preemployment training was not generally required.
All the plants accepted married as well as single women. One, how­
ever, reported a preference for single women and another would not
hire the wives of their men employees. Half the firms would not
accept women under 21 and half set 18 years as the minimum age
limit. Only two stipulated a maximum age; one set 40 years, the
other 50.
At time of visit a large proportion of the hiring was done at the
plant gate. Four factories in which women operatives were employed
secured most of their personnel in this way. Several, however, were
making extensive use of the United States Employment Service
facilities. One plant made new hires exclusively, and one almost
exclusively, through the U. S. E. S.; even when applicants came to
the gate, the company first named sent them to the U. S. E. S. before
granting them an interview.
Though women who have attended defense training classes find jobs
in machine-tool plants, personnel was not customarily secured directly
from the schools except by two companies. These are in the same
New England town, where a special cooperative training school under
public-high-school authority has been sponsored for nearly 25 years
by the local industries. The high-school machine-shop classes were
held in space provided on the property of one of the companies and
with machinery donated by several affiliated firms. The same ma­
chine shop was being used as a National defense training school in
the summer of 1942, with both men and women enrolled. One of the
cooperating machine-tool firms was getting most of its women em­
ployees from this school. Another used this school and in addition
canvassed defense schools in other parts of the State and adjoining
Trainees in the New England school just mentioned were being
taught first the use of the micrometer and of all types of precision
measuring instruments such as calipers, vernier gages, plug gages,
dial indicators, and the like. Next they were taught to read blue­
prints and to set up machines from blueprints. In addition the
students were trained in the operation and set-up of an unusually
diversified and complete array of machines. The course required
about 160 hours over a period of 6 to 8 weeks. Classes were held 24
hours a day and 7 days a week. The school admitted women in
April of 1942, and when visited in July, 85 women had completed
the course. Most of them were employed in three machine-tool plants.
The supervisor of training reported that the women listened more
carefully than men to instructions and were more painstaking in
their work. They were slower than men at first, but their spoilage
was less. The supervisor stated also that the women were able to
work to close tolerances in a very short time.
In Cincinnati, often called the machine-tool center of the United
States, approximately 72 percent of the vocational training sponsored
by the U. S. E. S. was in machine-shop work. There were 12 machine



shops and 98 machine-shop classes, all open to women since February
1942. In August of that year fully one-third of the total enrollment
were women and it was estimated that one-fourth of those already
trained had been placed. The schools stressed production and
actually turned out numerous machine-tool accessories and various
machines and machine tools for use in their shops. At the time of
visit one well-equipped school shop was making or planning to make
100 8-liorsepower motors, 12 centering machines, 250 milling-machine
vises, 25 complete hand-operated milling machines, and 500 drill-press
vises. Besides the machine-shop work, related instruction in blue­
print reading, shop mathematics, and the use of precision measuring
instruments was given. The courses required 3001 hours to complete,
but most of the trainees secured jobs and left before finishing.
The NYA school in Cincinnati, devoted almost entirely to training
Negroes, operated three 8-hour shifts a day. Classes were coeduca­
tional. All the work in the school shop was production work for
which orders had been received. According to the instructor, ma­
chine-tool firms would not take down a set-up for small jobs, so the
training school got such orders. The usual related training was given
also. The difficulty was that Negro women; in spite of this training,
were not accepted for productive work in this area.
A course in inspection sponsored by the Ordnance Department and
providing training in mathematics, blueprint reading, mechanical
drawing, the use of precision measuring instruments, and metallurgy
completed the training picture in Cincinnati.
Machine-shop and inspection courses, most of them under public
auspices, were open to both Negro and white women in other machinetool centers. In one important area a course for women supervisors
had been started as an experiment.
The demand for women workers in the various war industries has
been so great that many leave the training schools before they have
completed their course." Many others do not enter training because
they can secure paying jobs without benefit of preemployment instruc­
tion. The attitudes of the machine-tool firms visited varied consid­
erably toward the defense-training-school work. Some reported at
time of survey that they took students from the schools whenever
possible and considered the preemployment instruction valuable.
Others in the same area with access to the same schools preferred to
train their own workers. They complained of lack of success with
the school trainees. Still others appeared to be indifferent; in fact,
seemed to do their hiring without regard to whether or not the
applicant had school work that would serve to familiarize her with
shop procedures and terms.
This doubtless arose from the fact that machine-tool plants were in
many cases training their new women workers themselves either
directly on the job under experienced workmen or in their own
vestibule schools. In at least one instance, however, where a vestibule
school for women was in operation, the time that trainees had to
spend in classes depended in large part on whether or not they had
had previous training in a defense school.
The instruction given women in vestibule schools varied in its
thoroughness. In one plant, foremen gave 3 days of training to all
new women employees. The instruction consisted of blueprint read­



ing and the use of the micrometer and other measuring tools. After
this, the women were assigned to a machine with a man worker and
trained on the job. A company representative said that inexpe­
rienced women could be trained by the plant in 3 days to use meas­
uring tools as well as if they had previously attended defense classes.
A more elaborate training program was in operation in a second
plant where the women remained in school an average of from 3
weeks to a month. Some were there 7 weeks, and others a day or so.
Some women did not have to enter the school at all if they had
received sufficient preemployment training in the defense school.
The firm’s vestibule training comprised 1 to V/2 hours of classroom
work each day and instruction in the use of measuring instruments,
in assembly work, and in machine operations. The girls were started
on scrap material, but as they became more efficient were put on
production work. At the time of visit women were learning to set
up work, though special set-up men might be hired for some of the
machines on which women eventually would be placed.
An even longer and more elaborate training program was in opera­
tion in a third plant. Here all women employed were given, first,
one week of classroom instruction during which they learned the
fundamentals of blueprint reading and the use of measuring instru­
ments. In this period, also, they were lectured concerning health,
dress, company policies, safety, and the like. For another week in
the plant’s trade school the women were taught to identify the
machines and from here they went into the shop, where they were
given a 12-week learnership course. They were paid while in training.
No additional or supplementary training was being offered women
in the plant after induction, but in every center where the firms were
located ample opportunity existed for taking additional work in
defense classes. Women were not being considered for apprentice­
ship training and in fact this type of training was practically dis­
continued for men in favor of short-term learnership programs or
on-the-job instruction.
The firms hiring women operatives reported that they included
them in their upgrading program. Several stated that women were
already being upgraded to set up their own machines. In one plant
one or two women had been advanced to more difficult machines.
The consensus was that women’s turn-over was low, men’s high,
mostly because of the draft and enlistments. In fact, at least 2 plants
began to take on women principally because of the high turn-over
among men. One employment director said that the turn-over
in his plant would decrease as more women were employed.
Medical services and related problems.
Industry has for some time been aware not only of its responsibility
to the worker to provide adequate treatment in case of illness or
accident while on the job, but of the dividends good medical facilities
pay in factory morale and reduced absenteeism. Most of the ma­
chine-tool plants visited had a well-appointed medical department in
which first aid was administered or minor treatment given. A nurse
generally was on duty at all times and a doctor was on call. In a
few cases one or more doctors were in attendance at the plant for



all or part of the day. One firm provided home-visiting service.
The smallest company, on the other hand, had only a first-aid station
tended by a worker with some training; a doctor was on call in case
of accident.
The medical service in a good many of the plants included also a
thorough preemployment physical examination. Some companies
had X-ray equipment. Most gave blood tests, took the blood pressure,
and examined eyes, ears, nose, throat, heart, and lungs. Men were
examined for hernia. A number of the companies that gave pre­
employment physical examinations employed women operatives.
These companies had several advantages over those also employing
women but giving no physical examination. Not only could their
personnel managers on the basis of the medical information weed
out women totally unable to do factory work or for whom physical
exertion would be dangerous, but they were able to allocate more
wisely those women who were hired. This is especially important
where the women’s work may involve lifting or other strenuous
physical activity. Providing the best possible arrangement of the
work and as many handling conveniences as possible eliminates a
iarge part of the problem, but proper choice of the woman for the
job is essential also. Women who will have to lift heavy materials
or perform other work requiring a good deal of strength should have
a physique enabling them to do the work and should be informed
concerning the proper methods of doing it with least exertion and
danger to themselves.
The question is raised frequently as to the maximum weight women
should be asked to lift. According to the research division of the
Women’s Bureau, “the scientific establishment of a maximum that
would apply to all women is impossible. All the elements in weight
lifting, such as compactness of load, levels of lifting, and so forth,
must be considered as well as the physical characteristics of the indi­
vidual who is to do the work.”8
In ordinary times women workers in this country are seldom re­
quired to lift over 25 pounds. Wartime employment, however, may
involve lifting much heavier loads. A recent study by the Division of
Labor Standards of the United States Department of Labor suggests
as over-all limits for employees in general a 25-pound maximum for
women, a 50-pound maximum for men.9 The British allow a maxi­
mum for women that is twice as great, 50 pounds for continuous
work, 65 pounds for intermittent work. American authorities feel
that if specific limits are set, this is too high.
Uniforms and safety-clothing regulations.
Safe, convenient, comfortable, and attractive work clothing for
women war workers is widely recommended.10 The clothing need not
be uniform, but uniform or not it must be safe. Proper factory garb
can make all the difference between freedom from accident and dis­
figurement or even death.
8 See Women’s Bureau Special Bui. 2, Lifting Heavy Weights in Defense Industries :
Methods for conserving health of women workers. 1941. This report summarizes the
problems involved in weight lifting and methods of protecting women employed in suen

s. Department of Labor. Division of Labor Standards, Guide to the Prevention of
Weight-Lifting Injuries. Special Bui. II. 1943. p. 13.
10 Recommendations of the Women’s Bureau in this field are summarized in its fcpeciai
Bui. 3. Safety Clothing for Women in Industry. 1941.



All machine-tool plants visited in which women operatives were
already employed were safety-clothing conscious. Most of them had
adopted a uniform and cap for plant wear. One company furnished
the uniforms to their women workers; the others asked the women
to buy them. The cost, reported in only two instances, was around
$3 an outfit. In one plant the women were said to have 2 or 3 each.
In one of the companies women operatives were not required but
were advised to wear the adopted uniform, since special clothing was
not required of the men. The women who did not wear the uniform
were requested to wear a suitable substitute for it in the way of a
coverall or slacks. Women engaged in machine work were generally
required to wear special headgear. Sometimes a hairnet or kerchief
was specified. Kerchiefs, however, may expose the hair, or machines
may catch loose ends of cloth. A hairnet alone is not safe either,
but worn fully under a cap it may help. Height, stiffness, and gen­
erous headsize are essential in a safety cap, so that it will cover all
the hair give warning of dangerous approach to the machine, and
be quickly lifted or knocked off in case of necessity. Above all the
hair should not be allowed to show beyond the cap. This seems to
be one of the most difficult plant rules to enforce, but it is extremely
important because of the many serious injuries that have resulted
from exposure of women’s hair near moving machinery.11
Low-heeled shoes were generally required; in one company most of
the women had purchased safety shoes at a cost of from $4.50 to $5 50.
Goggles and shields for work involving danger to the eyes and face
were provided as needed.
Food service.
Hot food generally was available for purchase by the workers on
all shifts, except in a few plants where sandwiches and light refresh­
ments only were provided or where the workers had to carry their
lunch or go out to eat. Of 15 plants, 7 had a cafeteria, 5 of the 7
being firms where women operatives were employed. In some places
lunch carts carried hot or cold food to the workers on each shift.
One plant allowed a caterer to come in at lunchtime with sandwiches,
hot soup, and coffee. Where lunching facilities were not available
many carried food to work and ate it at their workplaces or in rest
rooms. One plant, provided lunch-room space for this purpose. A
company having a cafeteria also sent a cart through the plant morn­
ing and afternoon with hot coffee, milk, orange juice, soft drinks,
and ice cream. Employees were allowed a reasonable time off for
o In the machine-tool plants visited, the most usual lunch period was
30 minutes. This is sufficient only if washing facilities and lunch­
rooms are conveniently located so that the worker has enough time
to leave the workroom, wash, eat a well-balanced meal, and have a
few minutes for leisure afterward. If the cafeteria or lunchroom is
inadequate to serve an expanding force without delay, or if it is
distant from the workroom, additional time should be allowed or
provision made for carts with hot food to serve lunches at convenient
points outside of workrooms.*
"See Women’s Bureau Special Bui. 9. Safety Caps for Women in War Factories. 1942.
"Womens Bureau Special Bui. 5, Women’s Effective War Work Requires Time for
Meals and Rest 1942.



Tool kits.
It is customary in the machine-tool industry for workers to fur­
nish a good many of their own hand tools, such as micrometers, scales,
and other miscellaneous equipment. The tools needed vary with the
job. In one plant it was said that the cost to women is generally
between $10 and $20, the higher in the toolroom. Another company
planning soon to employ women would furnish the more expensive
tools such as Johansson Blocks, but would require the purchase of
others. The latter would be bought by the firm and resold to the
women, who would pay for them in installments. Since most women
in the industry probably will be employed only for the duration or
not long after, this expense must be kept low.
Personnel work: Selecting and counseling versus policing.
Women matrons, counselors, or personnel officers had been intro­
duced into all but two of the plants in which women operatives were
employed. Their functions varied extensively. In one plant matrons
were employed expressly to “control” the women and keep them from
soldiering on the job by too frequent visits to the rest rooms. Not
far above these women in status and effectiveness were the matrons
in two firms who, in addition to their duty of seeing that the char­
women or janitors kept the women’s rest rooms clean, were expected
to handle problems brought to them by the factory women and act
as go-between to the personnel department.
The woman personnel officer in another company had still different
functions. She was employed before any women operatives were
taken on to try various jobs in the plant herself and then advise the
personnel office concerning those she thought women could do suc­
cessfully. This continued to be her main function as more and more
women were employed. She had no authority in the selection of
women nor in counseling them, but once they were hired she familiar­
ized them with plant facilities and regulations.
More professional and well-defined were the functions of the
woman personnel officer in each of two companies. These women
interviewed women applicants, hired them, and acted as women’s
counselors. One of the women, in addition, lectured trainees on such
topics as health, dress, and safety. These personnel officers had an
important function in the plant and because their function was welldefined and well-implemented they, as women, could give valuable
service, especially if they had the proper qualifications for the job.13
These capabilities should include varied industrial experience in addi­
tion to a good education and a personality and manner that preclude
prejudice and inspire confidence. A woman personnel officer, further­
more, should be interested in her fellow women workers and their
capabilities. She should have detailed knowledge of the jobs to be
filled, conditions in the plant, and the types of work which women
are fitted to do. When aptitude tests are given, she should be competent
in their interpretation. A woman personnel officer equipped in this
way can be of great service in an industrial organization where large
numbers of women are being employed for the first time.
13 See Women’s Bureau Special Bui. 12, Choosing Women for War-Industry Jobs.