Women as Defense Workers
The largest number of women who were employed in defense industries during the war found work in Mobile, where they worked either at Brookley Field repairing and servicing airplanes or at the shipyards building liberty ships, tankers, and minesweepers. The second greatest number worked in Birmingham at numerous jobs, the most important of which was the modification of airplanes. Third in importance was employment at the ordnance works and arsenals in Huntsville and Childersburg. Finally, substantial numbers of women continued to be employed in textile mills that had war contracts. How many women were actually employed? What exactly did they do? How were they received by their male coworkers? What was the experience of black women? How were women perceived by the public? And finally, why did these women work? These are the questions to answer if we are to understand the new role of women as defense workers.
The Mobile Air Service Command at Brookley Field was by far the largest employer of women in the state. At its height in March 1944 MoASC employed approximately seventy-five hundred women. 1 Brookley Field, where the command was located, was officially established in October 1939 by the army air force, but little construction was undertaken until early 1940. After the war began, the air force recognized the need for a service command to supply