• View of Springfield Armory overlooking the city of Springfield, 1855

    Springfield Armory

    National Historic Site Massachusetts

WOWs (Women Ordnance Workers) to the Rescue!

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Date: February 13, 2012
Contact: Shera Cohen, (413) 271-3982

SPRINGFIELD, MA - Filling the shoes of men who left for wartime military service through the 20th century, thousands of women hammered steel and shaped wood into Springfield Armory's famous rifles. Springfield Armory National Historic Site honors the service of these women during a special presentation in the museum theatre on Saturday, March 24th from 1:30pm to 3:00pm. Admission is free.

Several veteran women workers will share their experiences at Springfield Armory in-person. Harriet Atwood drafted plans and schematics from 1942 to 1944. Marcella Breton worked in the Filing and Polishing shop from 1942 to 1945. Edith Ray filed rifle parts, and Mildred Dunbar worked in the Engineering Department. Both Ray and Dunbar worked from the 1950s through Springfield Armory's closure in 1968.

In addition, Park Ranger Richard Colton will explore original photographs and recorded interviews. The stories of many Springfield Armory workers have been recorded and preserved by the National Park Service over the last three decades, and several will be highlighted during this program.

Throughout Springfield Armory's history, women played an important role. Women worked in many different departments, including machine operators, inspectors, and assemblers. In World War I, 15% of the workers were women. At the height of World War II, over 5,000 Women Ordnance Workers (WOWs) comprised 42% of the Armory's workforce.

The WOW concept was created to foster patriotic spirit and identification with the war effort by women working in the US Army's war production sites. WOWs wore red bandanas with distinctive markings of a flaming bomb not only for safety reasons but from a sense of pride, accomplishment and achievement in their contributions to the war effort. "At that time, women learned to do things they didn't know they could do," said Harriet Atwood.

Springfield Armory National Historic Site commemorates and preserves the site of the nation's first armory, established in 1794. As a unit of the National Park Service, the Visitor Center, Museum, buildings and grounds are open daily, 9am-5pm except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Admission is free. For information call 413-734-8551 or check the website at www.nps.gov/spar.

- NPS -

Did You Know?

Workers at Springfield Armory

Springfield Armory functioned in tandem with its sister armory in Harpers Ferry, (West) Virginia, providing arms for the nation from 1795 until Harpers Ferry Armory was burned down during the Civil War. Today, both sites are units of the National Park Service. More...