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Women’s Work in the War
Women Stand Ready to Fill War Jobs
Control of Industrial Home Work in War Time
Standards for Lighting War-Production Plants
War Emergency Acts Affecting Women in Manufacturing

Bulletin No. 193

of the

Women’s Bureau

July 1942

United States
Government Printing Office
Washington : 1942

for sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C.

Price 5 cents

Women Stand Ready To Fill War Jobs
Nearly V/2 million women were registered in the spring with em­
ployment offices all over the country, according to women advisers to
the Social Security Board, who include members of the Women’s Bu­
reau staff. Since so many women already were waiting to be placed in
war jobs. President Roosevelt announced to the press that no general
registration of women was needed at present. In areas with acute
labor shortages, local registrations may be necessary. Connecticut,
for example, has undertaken one. With a large male labor supply
still available, women will be used to a great extent in essential civilian
occupations where the numbers of men are declining sharply; but men
as well as women will continue to be taken on in war production.
Though the need for women workers has increased markedly, the
major call for them still is in the future. All placements of women
made by the Employment Service over the entire country increased
by 36 percent from the third quarter of 1940 to the third quarter of
1941, but those of men increased by 70 percent. The number of men
applicants for work declined by 48 percent, that of women by only
13 percent. There still were 3y2 million men seeking jobs in February
1942. In England, increased unemployment among women was an
early effect of the war. It was about a year and a half before women’s
unemployment fell to normal, and during that period no registration
of women was necessary.
Civilian Industries Release Women.
Besides the rolls of job seekers, a source supplying woman labor is
in the various industries now curtailing their usual production because
materials and plant capacity must be conserved for war uses. The
more important woman-employers among these are as follows:

Full-fashioned silk hosiery 59, 500
Auto bodies, parts, accessories 40’ 900
Radios, radio tubes, phonographs 33, 000
Electrical equipment (except radio) 18,200
Silk throwing and spinning 17, 500
Jewelry, jewelers’ material, etc 14,’ 300
Miscellaneous metal industries1 ll’ 600
Clocks, watches, watch cases; n, 300
Carpets, rugs, carpet yarns (wool) 11,100
Office and store machinery, n. e. c 11, 000
Games and toys lo’ 600
Stamped and pressed metal products lo! 200
Wire work, n. e. c 8, 800
Silk fabrics (broad and narrow) 7,300
Needles, pins, slides, snaps, hooks, eyes 6, 400
Advertising novelties 5, 700
Refrigerators, air-conditioning units 4, 200
Silverware, plated ware_________________________ ____

Humber of women
in census of 1939


1 Includes such industries as washing, vending, and sewing machines, auto stampings,
beauty-shop equipment, and a number of others, none with over 3,500 women.

Almost daily, new regulations add to this list. In many cases
plants are converted to war manufacture and some employees stay on,
but in many others there are considerable dislocations in employment.



women's work in the war

New Women Employees in War Plants.
In the first quarter of this year a million women were in war em­
ployment, twice the number before the Pearl Harbor attack. On the
basis of this and the further increase before July, the Department
of Labor expects that nearly two million more will be added in the
other six months, reaching a peak in total woman-employment of over
15 million, about 3y2 million of them on war work.
Less than a third of the expected hires in war plants in the first half
of 1942 were to be in establishments that would take women in the
types of jobs open, according to reports to the U. S. Employment
Service from over 12,000 such plants. Largest numbers of anticipated
openings were in making ammunition, aircraft, and electrical machin­
ery. Occupations in which employment offices report that labor has
been short but that women are now being taken on include work as
detail assemblers, final assemblers, and machine-shop inspectors, as
well as electrical assemblers, where women long have worked.
In such an important industrial State as New York, 1.400 employers
reporting in April expected women to constitute only about one-fifth
of the workers they would take on by the autumn of 1942. The male
labor supply still wTas so large this spring that over 1,100 of these
employers did not plan to include any women in their new labor
forces before the fall.
Women Release Men in Civilian Industry.
Reports on labor-market developments indicate that women are
relieving men in the essential non war activities such as trade, personal
service, and other nonprocess jobs. Estimates predict an increase by
the end of 1942 of more than half a million women but a decrease of
.lit million men in nonwar occupations, Projected through 1943, the
estimates indicate an enormous decline in manpower in these jobs
not directly war-connected, but since much of this work is necessary
to maintain the Nation at war a great increase in womanpower is
Many Agencies Seek Employment of Women.
Persons and agencies that formerly paid but little attention to the
asset the Nation has in its women workers now are turning their
attention to types of jobs women have done or can do, to ways of
organizing a plant to introduce women into new work, to conditions
necessary to secure best output with women workers, to most effective
methods of training women, and so forth. The variety of groups,
both official and private, that are issuing material along these lines,
which naturally must draw freely, on the Women’s Bureau fund
of information, is indicated by the partial lists of publications on
women in war production appearing in the Woman Worker of the
past year.
A number of agencies having to do with training and labor supplysuch as the Bureau of Employment Security—have sent to their farflung field offices special bulletins of the Women’s Bureau showing
the types of jobs women perform in war industries, and the standards
that have proved effective in maintaining the health and industrial
output of women workers.



Jobs for Which Women Are Wanted.
Specific jobs women are performing are mentioned in almost every
issue of the Woman Worker. Women have been reported in many
places at work on assembly, inspection, and light machine work, grind­
ing, burring, operating punch or drill presses, milling machines, small
turret lathes, and so forth. There also are reports of women at
work as overhaul and repair mechanics, assembling and disassembling
machine guns for testing, and disassembling wrecked airplanes. The
U. S. Employment Service has listed over 4G0 industrial jobs as suit­
able for women, though 40 percent of these would be suitable only
with some breakdown of the job or rearrangement of the industrial
process to enable women to perform them. At the time this was com­
piled, women worked in only a small proportion of these occupations.
Not far from half the jobs listed as entirely suitable for women ap­
parently would require only short training, that is, less than 6 months.
Reports of New York employers expecting to take on women by
the fall of 1942 indicate an increase of women in airplane plants,
operating drilling machine s, lathes, power sewing machines, and filing,
riveting, and boring devices, as well as on the assembly line; in plants
making lenses, bomb sights, precision instruments, and fire-control
apparatus, working as assemblers, grinders, honers, drill-press oper­
ators, solderers, cementers, welders, engravers, polishers, testers, and
inspectors. Other women will turn out radio tubes and parts, work
at radio repair; or they will be employed, chiefly up-State, in the elec­
trical-machinery industry as assemblers, winders, inspectors, powerpress operators, and X-ray technicians. Some of these firms will use
women as core makers anil turret-lathe operators.
Women in Training for War Industries.
Reports are received constantly of women being trained in plants
in all parts of the country. In some cases women are job instructors,
and there are now a few instances of women training other women
as job instructors. Women are in training in some plants as tool and
gage makers, electric welders, computers, draftsmen, to mention
but a few of the more skilled jobs, and in some cases to set up as well
as to operate milling and tool-making machinery. In the special Gov­
ernment training courses, latest figures available show women as about
4 percent of those being trained for war industries. In the preem­
ployment and refresher courses over 6 percent of the trainees are
women, in the supplementary courses a much smaller proportion.
Recent data for New York alone show women in training as machineshop and sheet-metal workers; in the schools, some were in radio com­
munication. map preparation, mechanical drawing, cost accounting,
electronics, and tool-drafting courses; a few were in chemistry,
engineering, and metallurgy courses.

Standards for Lighting War-Production Plants
Women workers in particular respond to bright, cheerful sur­
roundings, according to British experience with the problems in light­
ing war plants. Good factory lighting definitely increases output.
For black-out plans and 24-hour operation, some British factories
made the mistake of painting all windows and skylights black, with
immediate ill effects on output and workers’ health and morale.
Some of the finest processes in the war-production program are
performed by women’s nimble fingers. This underlines the partic­
ular necessity to women workers of excellent lighting in war fac­
tories, now especially important because of pressure for added output,
increased use of night shifts, and special black-out problems. Stand­
ards of the Illuminating Engineering Society published in detail by
the Women’s Bureau in 19321 have been revised recently as the
American Recommended Practice of Industrial Lighting of the Illu­
minating Engineering Society, approved March 17, 1942, by the
American Standards Association.
Though installations should be made by a competent illuminating
engineer, production officers should be familiar with the factors in­
volved. In addition to lessening eyestrain, good lighting contributes
to greater accuracy of workmanship, resulting in improved quality
of production, less spoilage, increased output, better use of floor
space, easier maintenance of a clean and neat workroom, better super­
vision, improved morale, and greater safety.
Factors necessary to consider are quality and quantity. Quality
includes absence of glare as well as diffusion, direction, and distribu­
tion of light. Glare may be defined as any brightness causing dis­
comfort, annoyance, interference with vision, or eye fatigue, and it
may injure the eye and disturb the nervous system.
Quantity of light is measured in units of foot-candles, an arbitrary
unit of measurement. Ease, accuracy, and speed of output are in­
creased on a task, sometimes to a remarkable extent, by increasing
the amount of light, with due consideration of distribution and con­
trast. The acceptable level varies with the requirements of each
task. For types of work where women are now being employed
extensively, the minimum standards for levels of illumination as
recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society are given in
the following list. In the Recommended Practice of Industrial Light­
ing, already referred to, is a much more complete table.
1TJ. S. department of Labor.
Industrial Lighting. 1932.


Women’s Bureau Bui. 94.

State Requirements for


Types of work


Minimum illumination
(Foot-candles measured
at work, 80 inches above
------------- 10
------------- 20
------------------- B
------------------- A

Extra fine________________
Cloth products:
Cutting, inspecting, sewing—
Light goods___________
Dark goods______ _____
Hangars, aeroplane:
Repair department___ _____
Extra fine________________
Machine shops:
Fine bench and machine work, fine automatic machines,
medium grinding, fine buffing and polishing___
__ ___ B
Stenographic work___ _____ _ 50
Bookkeeping, typing, and accountingII_ 50
Sheet-metal works:
Punches, presses, shears, stamps, spinning, medium bench
Welding~~" ~________ 20C

of 1r)TextomdvSDoor1pLVaT.LtiS7^nifnaHon of ex‘rem<dy toe detail work under conditions
foO foot fanXs a?e recommended! ' ^ l0”S Perl0dS °f tlme’ Illu“i™tion
derL-7e1ofecontra1s8t1I?^1fL(ia) d'8crirnination of fine detail under conditions of (6) a fair
candles are required! } f 1 8 Perlods of tlme' Rumination levels from 50 to 100 foot-


Control of Industrial Home Work in War Time
A tendency toward increased industrial home work in making
Army and Navy uniforms was the experience in early days of World
War I. Later, both the Quartermaster General and the Chief of
Ordnance of the Army issued orders that “no work should be given
out to be done in rooms used for living purposes.” Present indica­
tions are that cooperation of management and clothing unions, to­
gether with style changes and other factors, now have sharply cur­
tailed this system in the clothing industries.
Fair Labor Standards Act Cuts Home Work in Knitwear.
A recent Wage-Hour Division order practically bans most indus­
trial home work on knitted outerwear after the first of next Decem­
ber. Certificates to do home work may be obtained only for persons
who did such work before August 20, 1941, or who are to do it under
supervision of a State vocational rehabilitation agency or a sheltered
workshop. In either case, home work is allowed only for persons
unable to adjust to factory work because of age or physical or mental
disability, or unable to leave home because caring for an invalid.
Jewelry Home Work Also Rigidly Cut.
The order for knitted outerwear is the second to virtually do away
with home work in an industry in which it has been general. The
first was in jewelry making, and was effective November 3, 1941,
under much the same terms as the more recent knitwear order. (See
Woman Worker, November 1941.) The orders are based on au­
thority under the Act to “prevent the circumvention or evasion” and
“safeguard the minimum-wage rates established.” Hearings have
been held also on home work in the women’s and children’s apparel,
glove, and button and buckle industries.
Home Work on Army and Navy Clothing.
In World War I, Navy clothing made at Charleston, S. C., was
done entirely in factory, but in Brooklyn, N. Y., home workers sewed
stars and tape on sailor collars, made undress jumpers, blue serge
overshirts, and white cotton jumpers for the Navy. They worked
chiefly in their dining rooms, kitchens, or living rooms, sometimes
in bedrooms, and in a few cases separate sewing rooms were used.
Though the Army no longer gave out work to New York tene­
ment dwellers, home workers did about a third of the sewing of
Army shirts made at one of the Philadelphia stations and in Indiana
near Louisville, Ky. Efforts were made to fumigate these garments,
but the system was not effective in destroying all germs. Moreover,
the capacity of fumigating facilities at Louisville was 14,000 shirts,
but 17,000 to 20,000 a day were received. Some of these were made
in shanties with no sanitary facilities, built on low ground covered
with water at flood seasons. Wastefulness of the home-work system




was emphasized by the fact that it required 21,000 workers to do at
home what 3,000 factory workers could do, and by the congestion of
transportation due to shipping materials and completed garments
to and from the substations and to the workers carrying their bundles
back and forth from depots to homes. Reports for one Indiana
branch showed that a fourth of the home workers lived at a distance
of 50 miles or more.
Recent Progress in Home-Work Control.
The past few years have seen great progress in defining and con­
trolling industrial home work. The problem was widely studied and
some control instituted under the N. R. A. in 1933-35. The Fair
Labor Standards Act requires payment of the same rates to home
workers as to factory workers. Most home workers are women. In­
vestigation showed that employers of home workers accounting for
one-third of such workers actually registered in five States held
active State home-work permits but had failed to obtain the hand­
books required by the Wage-Hour Division.
Beginning in March 1939 the Wage-Hour Administrator required
employers of home workers to keep special records for a 6-month
period to determine whether they were complying with the statute.
In November 1939 a court decree obliged back wages to be paid by 11
of the country’s largest manufacturers and sellers of knitted gar­
ments, perhaps the most important of all home-work industries. A
permanent injunction restrains the companies from further violation,
either directly or by subterfuge. (See Woman Worker, March and
July 1939, January and March 1940, January 1941.)
The Wage-Hour Division reported late in 1940 that, though but
slightly more than 1 percent of all cases litigated under the F. L. S. A.
concerned home workers, almost 25 percent of the back wages ordered
went to home workers, who constituted 13 percent of all receiving
such wages. The average sum restored to home workers was almost
twice the average for all workers, a rough index of the extent to
which home workers, in contrast to other employees, were exploited.
Situation in the Apparel Industry.
The Wage-Hour Division made a comprehensive survey of home
work on women’s and children’s apparel and presented the facts at
hearings in the spring of 1942. The study includes interviews with
home workers and with employers, reports on handbooks issued,
special questionnaires to employers. It gives as a very rough esti­
mate a maximum of some 9,600 home workers in the industry. The
report shows that of some 3,300 home workers in 220 firms inspected
in the spring of 1941, over three-fourtlis were in three States as
follows: New York, 39 percent; Pennsylvania, 20 percent; Texas,
18 percent. Employment in the same year on infants' and children's
wear showed a different distribution: Pennsylvania, 40 percent;
Texas, 38; New York, 3.
The setting of rates for home workers was found to be haphazard.
If work was also done in the factory, home woi'kers were paid the
same rate as plant workers. If not, a sample maker in the factory
or a few home workers were timed, or the statement of the home
worker was accepted. Some employers divided the prevailing min­


women’s work in the war

imum rate by a rough estimate of the number of units that might be
done in an hour. According to information from some 400 home
workers, nearly half the work was done by hand, nearly one-third
wholly by machine, the remainder a combination of the two. In
general, hand work as done at home was not done in the factory,
but home machine work was. Most firms had a factory force far in
excess of those working at home, but a few had no factory force.
Some large branches of the industry were highly seasonal, especially
blouses, dresses, handmade underwear, and some types of neckwear.
But seasonal variation of the home-worker force was even greater
than that of the factory, since so often home workers were used only
to supplement the factory force at the peak of the season.
Home Work on Gloves.
Under the minimum-wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards
Act, glove manufacturers representing 90 percent of the production
in the industry agreed with the Government to pay back wages,
affecting home workers chiefly in New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, and
20,000 in Puerto Rico. The records of the Wage-Hour Division in­
dicate that at some time in about two years'pnor to June 30, 1941,
handbooks were distributed to more than 8,200 home workers, 97
percent of them in New York State. Of more than 1,000 home
workers reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1941, only 35
were working outside New York.
This is one of four industries for which New York State has issued
special orders sharply curtailing home work. (See Woman Worker,
September 1941.) Hearings have been held under the Wage-Hour
Act that may extend similar restrictions to this industry in other
States, as has been done for apparel and knitwear, since already New
York glove manufacturers have made inquiries about the home-work
regulations in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Pennsyl­
vania with the view to increasing the amount of home work going to
those States.

War Emergency Acts Affecting Women in
At time of writing only 10 States have found necessary any legal
changes or new laws that affect women’s employment to meet emer­
gency needs for industrial production.1 The work standards required
by law are such as experience has proved will best aid maximum output
as well as the workers’ health. Of the few legal adjustments that have
been made as to labor standards, a number are relatively minor.
In 17 States, basic statutes covering women’s work in manufacturing
contain elastic provisions applying to work hours, night work, or allied
subjects.1 Others have issued emergency orders, or have granted per­
mits where war work is involved. For the most part new laws, orders,
or amendments apply specifically to war emergency.
All the major industrial States employing large numbers of women
in manufacturing have made ample provision for emergency. In all,
83 States have established exemption procedures and 1 others are pre­
pared to handle exemptions. Six either have no labor laws applying
to women or their hour laws permit such a long maximum that no
exemption would be needed.3 Five other States have established no
The list following shows the States that, from December 7, 1941, to
date, have passed laws affecting labor standards for women. Further
details of such action are shown in the Woman Worker for May.
General emergency acts—Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Weekly work hours—New York and Virginia.
Rest or lunch periods—Maine, New Jersey, and New York.
Night work—New Jersey and New York.
Sunday or 7th-day work—New York and South Carolina.
Overtime pay—New York.


The following laws have been approved in 1942, in addition to the
war emergency acts affecting women’s labor laws in Maine, Massachu­
setts, New York, and Virginia reported in the Woman Worker for
1 Changes in labor laws in Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina ;
war emergency acts that apply specifically (New York and Virginia) or that can be applied
(Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) to labor provisions: and two additional States
that passed laws in 1041 but before Dec. 7—Connecticut, an hour law; Nebraska, a nightwork Inw : both described in the May Woman Worker.
2 Includes night-work-prohibition laws or orders in 4 States, l-day’s-rest-in-7 laws in 10
States, and 48-or-less-maximum-hour laws in 10 States; 22 States fix a maximum of over
48 hours a week in some manufacturing plants and 8 States fix no weekly hour limit.
8 Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
4 Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee.




War Emergency Powers
Rhode Island.

Act effective until March 31, 1943, giving power to the Governor to cooperate
with Federal authorities and with Governors of other States in matters per­
taining to the common defense of the State and the Nation. (Approved and
effective April 10.)

Hours of Work

Suspension for the duration of the war of the observance of all legal holidays
but Independence Day, Labor Day, and Christmas. (Approved March 12.)

Amendment to law for women requiring rest period of 1 hour after 6 hours
of continuous work permits reduction to 30-minute rest period after 6(4 consecu­
tive hours in workshops, factories, manufacturing or mechanical establishments.
(Approved January 24.)
New Jersey.

For duration of the war the Governor is given power to suspend the law requir­
ing a 30-minute meal period after 6 hours of work; but not over 8 hours are
allowed without a meal period. (Approved and effective March 31.)
• New York.

Law of 1941 permitting employment of bindery workers at night and requiring
overtime pay for hours over 40 to 48 was amended by striking out the overtime
provision. (Approved and effective May 10.)
South Carolina.

Amendments authorize the Governor to permit Sunday work in factories, stores,
and machine shops during the National emergency in production of goods under
Government contract. Persons conscientiously opposed to Sunday work shall be
exempted without prejudice. (Approved and effective March 19.)

Industrial Home Work
New York.

Two amendments were passed—(1) requiring that home work must be distrib­
uted direct to workers by the employer and not through contractors or dis­
tributors, and (2) declaring that home workers are employees of their employers
and not independent contractors. (Approved and effective May 5.)

Minimum Wage
New Jersey.

Amendment makes technical correction in the title of the minimum-wage law.
(Approved and effective February 2.)
New York.

Minimum-wage law has been amended to provide that appeals from determina­
tions of board of standards and appeals must be taken direct to the appellate
iivision of supreme court, third judicial department, on any question of law
nvolved in any decision or order reviewed. (Approved and effective May 6.)