• Women Who Weld

    Rosie if by land, Wendy if by sea

    Rosie the Riveter is the most recognizable (and beloved) image celebrating the role of women on the home front during WWII. Rosie represents women in factories and on assembly lines filling the jobs left empty by the men who enlisted or were drafted into the war. Moreover, these women supported the war effort by answering the call to fill the new jobs, those created by the growing demands for artillery, tanks, weapons, and yes...ships!


    Many people don't realize that Rosie had a counterpart, women who were just as fierce and faithful. These women are now commonly referred to as "Wendy the Welder." Around 1,000 women worked for J.A. Jones at their Brunswick shipyard. Most of the women were not welders, of course, but as a whole, they made up a sisterhood that helped launch the Liberty Ships.

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    Photo is property of the University of South Alabama Archives

    And that has made all the difference...

    Choosing welding as the method of construction - rather than riveting - contributed greatly to the speed at which Liberty Ships were completed.


    Riveted ships took months to build - and that was a time frame that just wouldn't do. Eventually, the amount of time needed to complete a welded Liberty Ship decreased to an average of only 42 days.


    This speed was due in large part to the assembly line method of construction. Welding was better suited to the prefabricated sections.

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    If you want something done...

    At the time that the article below was written, there were approximately 65 women welders at the J.A. Jones Shipyard. (The clipping was taken from a microfiche copy of The Brunswick Mariner, the shipyard's newsletter.)


    In fact, twelve of those women could boast the title of Skilled Welder, having taken and passed the American Bureau of Shipping welding certification test.


    All of this is to say, women welding Liberty Ships at J.A. Jones was not a novelty or fluke. It was an everyday reality, happening in significant numbers. Can someone say, "Girl Power?"

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    A Symbol of Progress

    The ways represent a landmark moment in the fight for women's equality. It's been an arduous journey, and it's far from over. But the women who worked in the J.A. Jones Shipyard proved that they were more than capable of taking on the same jobs that had traditionally belonged to men. The ways stand as a symbol of the women who welded and all of the rest of the women who helped defend the entire world against Nazism.

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    Ida Mae, AKA MawMaw

    A "riveting" tale about a woman who welded

    MawMaw was my husband's grandmother. Back when my husband and I were dating in college, before I ever met MawMaw, I heard the stories of an amazing woman who welded ships over her head. I was enchanted and immediately began to refer to her as a "real life Rosie the Riveter." I didn't know at the time that the name "Wendy the Welder" was far more fitting.

    Photo courtesy of Lynda Hall Tanner, daughter of Ida Mae

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    A welder by any other name...

    There's no formal consensus on what the women welders of WWII should be called. I personally prefer Wendy, but I've seen references to Winnie the Welder, too. Whichever name you choose, these were daring, resolute women who took on a risky, traditionally male trade to build the cargo carriers that helped the Allied forces win WWII.
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    Woman welding is taken from a photo owned by the University of South Alabama Archives

    Hear me roar!

    None of us needs an expert to tell us that WWII saw more women entering the workforce than ever before. What I bet many people don't realize, however, is that many of the issues making headlines today were being examined in the 1940s as more and more women took on employment outside of the home.

    Communities embraced the challenges of more women in the workforce and responded with practical, caring solutions. In Brunswick, for instance, multiple new nurseries were opened throughout the town to support the needs of working mothers.

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    A bulletin from the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor carefully lays out the argument for equal pay for women. This bulletin tackles stereotypical objections to equally pay and slays them with fact based logic.

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    Another government publication unequivocally states that a woman's job should not be in jeopardy because she takes pregnancy leave.

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    Note: Some of the language used in these bulletins and publications doesn't live up to today's standards. While I don't condone sexist language, I have made a conscious choice to present the excerpts as they were written. I am giving the reader the freedom to interpret the words and place them in the context of the time period.