Riveting and Rationing in Dixie: Alabama Women and the Second World War

By Mary Martha Thomas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Adjusting to Women Workers

The expansion of the female labor force in Alabama during the war involved more than growth in numbers. It forced changes in the perception of the role of women by management, women themselves, and their male coworkers. In some situations, management was forced to take special measures to accommodate the new employees. Employers realized that women who were hired to fill men's jobs would need to be treated differently from men. Defense contractors were usually willing to make changes because the federal government absorbed the extra expense.

The most common practice was to employ counselors for women. Some companies had employed them before the war, but the practice became widespread when employers had to cope with thousands of new workers who were unfamiliar with the ways of factory life. Counselors' functions were to interpret company rules and regulations to women; to make male workers and foremen more receptive and understanding of women; and to discuss personal problems and assist in obtaining services such as child care, housing, and transportation. The Women's Bureau found that by 1943 almost all factories it surveyed had employed counselors. 1

Both the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company and the Mobile Air Service Command employed women counselors to assist and support the female employees in their transition into the male

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