Friday, 11 March 2016

Women Working in Machine Shops

From the Halifax Courier, 11th March 1916.

Women in Machine Shops.

In a large number of factories, all the operations in the manufacture of the 18-pounder high explosive shell are being performed by women, each lathe controlled by one woman is so provided with stops and automatic cut-offs for diameter and length that the operation becomes almost automatic and one almost impossible to go wrong.  Hundreds (says Cassier's Magazine) are working in general engineering shops where centre-lathes are employed, with very little repetition, and, in addition, women are being employed on planing, shaping, grinding, milling, drilling, keyway cutting and on capstan lathes and a host of other machine operations.  In aircraft construction women are brazing and welding and covering aircraft wings, etc.

[I don't know whether the Halifax Courier in 1916 expected its readers to be familiar with engineering terms (a lot more familiar than I am - I had never met the word 'keyway' before).  Halifax was manufacturing town, but I think it was mainly such things as carpets and toffee rather than heavy engineering.  Or perhaps this was just intended to convey an impression of women doing complicated stuff.] 


  1. Since I've worked in a machine shop, and husband is a machinist, I knew the terms, some might not be everyday terms. I think I agree with you, they might have wanted to sound complex. Neat, however!

    1. Thanks for the comment. It's a pity that most of the experience that women accumulated during the war, of working in engineering shops and other areas where women had not worked before, was largely lost again after 1918 - until the next war in 1939.