We’ve all read about Rosie the Riveter, but what about her mother? Over a million women worked in factories in WWI building Liberty engines, airplanes, working in munitions factories, and warehouses. Others volunteered for the American Red Cross driving ambulances, working in canteens, transporting people and supplies in the Motor Corp., and as nurses. Still others set up daycares for working mothers, knitted clothing and medical supplies, and rationed food so that soldiers would have more. With 2017 marking the 100th anniversary of American involvement in WWI, we took a look at how these women contributed to the war effort in the U.S.
Part of the reason little has been said about women factory workers in WWI is that, unlike in WWII, most of the women who worked in wartime industries had already been working in factories prior to the war. It was only in the last few weeks before armistice was signed that middle-class homemakers were being mobilized to work in factories. But the women who did work in the factories manufacturing munitions, airplanes, trucks, and Liberty Engines, were not in these industries prior to the war. Women, during WWI, made a huge shift from traditionally women’s industries such as food processing and textiles to traditionally male industries, such as heavy manufacturing and vehicle production. This came with pushback from their male coworkers, and after the war, many of these women were forced back into traditionally female occupations, but during the war women proved they could perform jobs in these industries in support of the war effort (and also to earn a much better living).
In Detroit, most of the automotive factories were manufacturing items for the war. In addition to providing vehicles, planes, and components, Packard, Lincoln, Ford, and GM all produced the Liberty Engine for airplanes. The factories, short on men during war, employed women to work on the engines. It was said manufacturers preferred women in some of the work as they were more detail oriented and better suited to delicate work requiring a fine touch. Ford Motor Company, who at the time employed almost no women at all, began hiring women in August of 1918, by the time armistice was signed in November they had employed 500 women from one time to another in the factories. From the extant photos, Lincoln Motor Company appeared to have hired even more women, putting them to work at everything from gauging pistons and valves to welding.
Many women worked for the American Red Cross during the war. Detroit had its own chapter of the Red Cross and Ford Motor Company provided ambulances, trucks and cars in a $500,000 contribution. Women of the Red Cross conducted training sessions with their Ford ambulances outside the Highland Park factory. Women also transported sick patients, medical supplies, and doctors and nurses to and from hospitals during the Influenza Epidemic. In addition, volunteers in the Motor Corp used Ford vehicles, and others, to transport supplies to canteens, deliver surgical supplies, knitted garments, and other materials and personnel.
Women also worked from their homes to aid the war effort. Posters of the time encouraged women to volunteer for the Red Cross, asking them if they had a Red Cross service flag in the window of their home, support the YWCA helping women factory workers, join the Women’s Land Army, and to buy war bonds. Women at home were also encouraged to conserve food by using less wheat and meat, growing home gardens, and show children the importance of rationing. Cookbooks giving recipes avoiding wheat included recipes for corn and bran muffins, and potato doughnuts, while other pamphlets instructed housewives in gardening, and home canning and drying. Posters often compared U.S. women to the hard working, hard suffering, women of France, encouraging women to do their part to help out.
While the U.S. was only directly engaged in the war for 19 months, the U.S. industry had long before been manufacturing for the war, and women were engaged in the public and home sectors working in factories, volunteering, and rationing. The shortage of men during the war allowed women to enter jobs they were previously barred from, at the same time the importance of cooking, making, and volunteering took on new proportions for women as well. Though many of the women working in factories had to give up their jobs, and opportunities for women diminished as the men returned from war, women of WWI played a key role in the war effort both in industry and at home.
If you’re looking for more World War I resources, the Benson Ford Research Center can help you find them. We’re open Monday-Friday 9-5, AskUs a question or make an appointment today.
Kathy Makas is a Benson Ford Research Center Reference Archivist at The Henry Ford.
Beast and Belle hand puppets. THF342892, THF342891
When Walt Disney Pictures released its animated film Beauty and the Beast in 1991, the company received its best movie reviews in almost 50 years. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the movie four stars out of four, saying that, “Beauty and the Beast reaches back to an older and healthier Hollywood tradition in which the best writers, musicians, and filmmakers are gathered for a project on the assumption that a family audience deserves great entertainment, too.” Movie-goers of all ages agreed—this film was a winner.
Lesser known is the fact that this movie broke new ground in ways that we often take for granted with animated films today. On the eve of Disney’s soon-to-be-released live-action version of this classic film, we take the opportunity to reflect upon the many breakthrough—even revolutionary—aspects of the original film.
1. It was the first animated film in history to use a screenplay in addition to the usual storyboards. This made the resulting story more akin to a live-action movie than to the extended cartoon quality of other animated films produced up to that time.
2. The screenplay was written by a woman! In a field dominated by men, Linda Woolverton—whose primary experience had been writing scripts for children’s television shows—was the first woman to write an animated feature for Disney. Woolverton, who claimed that she possessed some of Belle’s characteristics and that Gaston had “tinges of guys I used to date,” brought a believable quality to the characters as she worked with the film’s changing stable of story writers.
3. Belle was a new kind of princess, ushering in a whole new generation of more free-thinking, dynamic princesses like Mulan, Rapunzel in Tangled, and Merida in Brave. In writing the screenplay, Woolverton said, “I wanted a woman of the 90’s, someone who wanted to do something other than wait for her prince to come.” The casting of Paige O’Hara (a Broadway actress and singer) as the voice of Belle was a purposeful attempt to add a unique, more grown-up quality to Belle’s personality.
4. The other main characters also broke traditional molds. Full of depth and complexity, Beast and Gaston turned the role of the classic, stereotypical Disney prince inside out. Beast, who was “mean and coarse and unrefined” during most of the film, turned out to be the prince, while Gaston—whose dashing looks make him a more likely hero—turned out to be the villain.
5. The music was stunning. When Walt Disney Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg insisted that the film have a Broadway musical quality, he brought in songwriters Alan Mencken (music) and Howard Ashman (lyrics) fresh from their success with The Little Mermaid. Mencken and Ashman outdid themselves, creating the emotionally complex songs that moved the narrative forward and furthered our understanding of the characters and themes. Mencken and Ashman received Academy Awards that year for best original song (Beauty and the Beast) and best original score.
Songwriters Alan Mencken and Howard Ashman turned their talents to Beauty and the Beast after completing The Little Mermaid. THF 308964
6. It helped kick movie studios’ use of computer animation into high gear. Beauty and the Beast was produced using a blend of traditional hand-drawn animation and CAPS, a computer-animated production system. While not the first movie to use computer animation, the success of such effects in this film—especially in the stunning ballroom scene—convinced Disney and other film studios to invest further in this technology.
7. It brought The Walt Disney Company back to being a force to be reckoned with. After a string of minor box-office releases, Disney’s animation department started turning things around with Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1986) and The Little Mermaid (1989). Beauty and the Beast was an even bigger hit, ushering in a wave of successive hits from Aladdin to Tarzan.
Aladdin and Magic Carpet Burger King figure. THF 311312
This era, sometimes referred to as the “Disney Renaissance,” also saw a constant barrage of marketing tie-ins with each new film—related merchandise, Broadway musical adaptations, and Disney theme park attractions—laying the foundation for present-day cross-marketing techniques.
Why Remember Detroit '67? What started out as a police raid on an after-hours club early Sunday morning, July 23, 1967, escalated into five days and nights of uncontrolled violence, looting, and arson that left 43 people dead, 1,189 injured, and over 7,200 arrested. While civil unrest had occurred in many other cities before and during that summer, this event stood out as the largest of these uprisings until the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968.
Many people wondered how this could happen in Detroit—a city thought to have good race relations. What soon became apparent was African Americans’ anger and frustration at the lack of progress that had been made in achieving basic rights and equality, even after the long struggles of the Civil Rights movement and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several root causes of the uprising were cited, including: unemployment and job discrimination, substandard housing, poverty, low-quality education, lack of access to medical facilities, police brutality, mistreatment by white merchants, shortage of city services, and white indifference to these problems.
Despite efforts on many fronts to move past the devastation and bitter memories of 1967, Detroit is still considered a divided city today.
The Detroit 67 Project The vision of The Detroit Historical Society’s groundbreaking project is to use the memory and legacy of this historic crisis as a “catalyst to engage, reflect, and provide opportunities to take the collective action that can help move our community forward.” To accomplish this, the Society has encouraged community-wide collaborators to lead programs, workshops, and discussions, collect oral histories, and/or share related archives and collections through exhibitions, publications, or websites. We have chosen to share digital content on our website related to topics that laid foundations for and offered responses to the upheaval that occurred in Detroit (and other cities) in 1967.
Our Involvement Our mission, core collecting topics, and strategic plan all make this collaboration a perfect fit for us. First, our mission statement includes a call to action: to inspire people to shape a better future by learning from the traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and innovation. Second, one of our core collecting topics is social transformation, which involves a shift in people’s collective consciousness, leading to new values, relationships, and patterns of behavior. Finally, aligning with our larger institutional strategic plan, the goals for digital content on our website include relevance, community impact, national awareness, and sustainability.
Because of the national scope of our collections, we have organized our digital offerings listed below into categories of before and after the events of July 1967. We hope this rich and wide-ranging content deepens your understanding of the foundations, context, and impact of this historical crisis. This content not only sheds light on the past but can also provide a jumping-off point to encourage conversation and inspire action into the future.
With Henry Ford Museum now being called Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, it brings about some reminiscing thoughts of the artifacts that stand out as the most innovative. While the name of the overall destination remains The Henry Ford, the organization is extending Henry Ford Museum’s name to better convey the core idea of innovation that threads throughout its key collection.
Some of the curators at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation had the same reminiscing thoughts, and each chose an artifact that stood out to them as the most innovative.
When asked to choose an artifact from the museum that symbolized innovation, a lot of the curators had trouble picking just one.
Debra Reid - Curator of Agriculture and the Environment The manure spreader displayed in the agriculture exhibit inside Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation looks more like a work of art than a piece of farm equipment. Laborers painted the wooden box yellow and red, added pinstripes, and stenciled the manufacturer’s name and model number prominently on its exterior. This made the spreader a moving advertisement during the Golden Age of agriculture, roughly 1900 to 1920.
During this time some farmers profited from high market prices paid for the commodities that they grew. The spreader symbolized their investment in new ways of doing business. They purchased more land, built new farm buildings including corn cribs and dairy barns, and bought pure-bred livestock and new agricultural equipment to help them do their jobs. The spreader reduced the labor required to move increasing amounts of manure from barns and stables and apply it to their arable land. The machine distributed the organic manure and its three essential elements (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) more evenly than pitching manure from a cart onto the fields. Not all farmers practiced such intensive animal husbandry, and thus, they had little use for such innovations,but the spreader answered the prayers of other farm families with livestock housed in barns and stables and fields in need of nutrients.
Jim Johnson - Curator of Landscaping and Historic Structures My favorite innovative object is the Newcomen Steam Engine. Though it is not the actual very first one, it is among the first design generation of the world’s first steam engine and in essence, represents the birth of the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of the machine age. By having this direct association with the Industrial Revolution, the Newcomen is at the foundation of what would become the world we live in today.
Donna Braden - Curator of Public Life Among my favorite innovative artifacts in the museum are the small and often-unnoticed plastic dishes in the 1950s (“Buying the Future”) case in Driving America, part of the raised timeline. Dishes made of the chemical melamine (sometimes referred to as Melmac) became wildly popular during the 1950s because industrial products like this were considered a sign of progress and modernity; their minimal design was thought to be“sleek” and “modern”; they were marketed as unbreakable and thus were considered perfect for Baby Boomer kids; and their bright colors, as shown in the case and the exhibit, perfectly matched the colors of other consumer products of the time, like cars. I also chose these dishes because they are so darned ordinary-looking and because, growing up in a large family of Baby Boomer kids myself, my mom always opted for anything that didn’t break and we had a set of these ourselves.
Charles Sable - Curator of Decorative Arts I have many "favorite" objects in the Museum. One that I am particularly fond of is Victor Schreckengost's "Jazz Bowl" (1931) located in "Your Place in Time." What I find fascinating about it is how Schreckengost was able to adapt the cubist aesthetic found in European and American high art to a punch bowl. Further, he made cubism serve as a narrative of New Year's Eve in New York City.
Matt Anderson - Curator of Transportation Ah, that’s always the question a curator dreads most. The truth is, my favorite object tends to change on a daily basis! That said, I have a soft spot for Henry Ford’s 1896 Quadricycle. In and of itself, the vehicle really isn’t innovative, but it represents Ford’s all-out devotion to his dream – spending so much of his free time (and even a little work time) putting this little car together in the shed behind his house. It’s also a fine example of Ford’s philosophy to learn by doing. He certainly could read plans and blueprints, but Ford was most comfortable working in three dimensions. What does it take to build a working automobile? Henry Ford thought the best way to answer that question was to just go ahead and build one! Of course, without the Quadricycle, we never would’ve gotten Ford’s signature innovation: the well-designed, well-built and affordable Model T.
Kristen Gallerneaux - Curator of Communication & Information Technology My favorite artifacts change all the time, but lately on my daily walks through the museum, I’ve been stopping to visit the Eames kiosk that originally appeared at the IBM Pavilion in the 1964 New York World’s Fair. I love this piece because its connections to innovation are invisible or hidden in plain sight, waiting to be revealed. It might seem like an unlikely-looking thing to have been witness to computing history—but it was. Kiosks like this one were used by IBM at the World’s Fair to demonstrate new technologies—including one of the first public demonstrations of optical character recognition, and a new computer-based language translation service. Our particular kiosk was used as a canopy to protect elements of the Mathematica exhibit. As for the “hidden in plain sight” moment, if you stoop down and peek under the canopy, you’ll find an image of a bouquet of flowers printed underneath. These wildflowers were picked in Zeeland near Herman Miller’s offices, shipped on dry ice to the Eames Office in California, artfully arranged by Ray Eames—and finally photographed by Charles.
These are just a few of the artifacts that showcase different types of innovation here on the floor of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation; what's your favorite?
Halie Keith is a Media & Film Relations Intern at The Henry Ford.
Using a front-wheel drive layout in a front-engine car allows for a compact design, but it requires some clever packaging under the hood. The Accord’s automatic transmission is combined with a differential into a single unit called a transaxle, mounted on the passenger side of the engine. The transverse-mounted engine has three valves per cylinder – two intake and one exhaust.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
The Henry Ford is proud to announce we are changing the name of Henry Ford Museum to Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation beginning today, January 23, 2017. While the name of the overall destination remains The Henry Ford, the organization is extending Henry Ford Museum’s name to better convey the core idea of innovation that threads throughout its key collection. Learn more in this video from the president of The Henry Ford, Patricia Mooradian.
Dozens of engines will be on view during Engines Exposed, but here Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites to kick off this annual exhibit.
1909 Ford Model T Inline 4-cylinder engine, L-head valves, 177 cubic inches displacement, 22 horsepower
Early Model T engines circulated cooling water with a gear-driven pump, visible just behind this engine’s fan. After 2,500 units, Ford switched to a simpler – and less expensive – thermosiphon system dependent on natural convection. Model T never used an oil pump. The flywheel, spinning in an oil bath, simply splashed the lubricant around. The engine and transmission efficiently shared the same oil supply.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Professors William E. Ayrton and John Perry collaborated on inventing an array of instruments from electrical devices for railways to meters to measure electricity. The London, England-based company, Latimer Clark, Muirhead, & Co., manufactured this Ayrton and Perry ammeter between 1883 and 1890.
Confident in their work, Ayrton and Perry personally certified the accuracy of their meters, which were touted as being among the most reliable. This ammeter, with its fascinating story, is one of the many objects being rediscovered as work progresses on The Henry Ford’s IMLS-funded grant.
Topps Trading card, “Space Hero,” 1963. THF230101 Today, we tend to equate Topps bubble-gum cards with sports heroes, especially baseball players. But, in 1963, a special Topps card series paid tribute to a very different kind of hero—the astronaut. And no astronaut featured in this special card pack was more celebrated at the time than John Glenn.
The Space Race had begun in the late 1950s, when both the United States and the Soviet Union had attempted to launch ballistic missiles into outer space. Americans were surprised when the Russians beat them to it, launching the Sputnik I satellite in October 1957. But, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited earth on April 12, 1961, Americans were downright shocked and not a little concerned. As a response, President Kennedy pledged to support an even more aggressive space program than President Eisenhower had initiated before him. Of course, Congress had to approve a massive budget increase for the newly created civilian space agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to turn President Kennedy’s vision into a reality.
Topps Trading Card, “Our 1st Spacemen,” 1963. THF230117 On May 5, 1961, Americans breathed a sigh of relief as astronaut Alan Shepard finally became the first American in space. Two months later, astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom followed him with a second suborbital flight (a trip into space but not into orbit). Following up on these and other iterative achievements of Project Mercury, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth on February 20, 1962. Americans held their collective breath as they followed the mission on radio and television, then celebrated like never before. President Kennedy called Glenn’s flight “a magnificent achievement.”
Topps Trading Card, “Glenn in Space,” 1963. THF230113 I was nine years old at the time and witnessed John Glenn’s takeoff that day on a fuzzy little black-and-white TV in our school gymnasium. Watching with my teachers and classmates, I felt a great sense of pride—perhaps doubly so because Glenn hailed from my home state of Ohio.
Topps Trading Card, “1st Man in Orbit,” 1963. THF230115 When John Glenn passed away on December 8, 2016, he was the last survivor of the so-called Mercury 7—those seven courageous but well-trained pilots-turned-astronauts who ventured into outer space for their country during America’s nascent Space Program. Glenn will be remembered for his easy smile, his unassuming manner, his sense of duty, and his extraordinary bravery. He renewed American confidence when it was badly shaken during the Cold War era. After he safely landed, he received a hero’s welcome like no other. And he continued to be revered through his 25 years as a U.S. Senator from Ohio, and when he returned to outer space in 1998, as part of the crew on the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Topps Trading Card, “Taking a Break,” 1963. THF230105 John Glenn struck us as just an ordinary guy, but one who possessed both an extraordinary sense of responsibility and nerves of steel. Through the images on these Topps bubble-gum cards, Glenn seems to be speaking to us across the decades, encouraging us to never stop following our dreams because sometimes the highly improbable actually becomes possible!
Topps Trading Card, “Posing for Photographers,” 1963. THF230111 To repeat the well wishes of fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter when Glenn lifted off into the unknown from his Cape Canaveral launch pad in 1962, “Godspeed, John Glenn!”
Donna R. Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.
What do Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd have to do with Ford Motor Company? (Well, besides the fact that Ford cars appear in a number of their films) The Ford Motor Company Safety Department. It’s strange to think of these two physical comedians as poster boys of safety, but through weekly films on safety issues the Safety Department used innovative techniques to prevent accidents by showing the right and wrong way of performing jobs and using machines and tools, often using Keaton and Lloyd films as comic examples of unsafe behavior. Safety, however, was taken very seriously at Ford and was seen as so important that early on in the 1910s the role of safety engineering and inspection was removed from the Medical Department and set up as a separate department.
Headed up by Robert Shaw, the department was established in 1914 and was responsible for machine safety, job safety, as well as hygienic safety (the full title of the department was the Safety and Hygiene Department). The first safety committee included P.E. Martin, C.E. Sorensen, C.W. Avery, the minutes stated: “it is the aim of the Safety Committee to reduce the number and serious nature of accidents. The assistance of every Ford man is needed in this work.” And assistance they got. By 1922, the department had around thirty inspectors, some general and some specialists, it also included a bacteriologist who examined areas in the factory to help stop the spread of disease, and a range of cleaners who sanitized, scrubbed, and scoured every inch of the factory to make sure the environment was as germ-free and clean for the workers as a factory could be.
Of the inspectors, some were general, and some specialized in specific areas or machines in the factory. John Wagner, who joined the department in 1922, worked on punch presses and noted when he started workers were losing an average of 16 fingers a month on press punches alone. Wagner designed several guards and safety mechanisms for machines, noting, “we never designed a guard like a pair of handcuffs that would pull men's hands back. I never approved of them. The men resented that type of guard. The sweep guard was not resented.” Shaw also noted that “we never liked harnessing a man to a machine.” Every machine in the factory was inspected and new guards or devices installed as necessary, any new machines had to be approved by the department, and they were consulted when new machines were being designed.
Shaw worked not only to fix machines that caused accidents, but also to heighten awareness of unsafe behavior and correct problems before they caused injury. Weekly safety bulletins were published, posters were posted, articles appeared in the Ford Man, and safety slogans and tips were printed on the back of each man’s timecard. Safety statistics for each department would be compiled monthly and distributed to all the departments for contests with departments competing against each other for the best safety record. The department hosted safety sessions where they showed movies, performed skits, and gave talks designed for individual departments and the safety hazards they faced. Safety rallies, parades, and picnics were hosted at different plants and branches in Detroit with the Ford Motor Company Band entertaining the crowd.
The department created safety cards for each job, which men has to read, sign, and turn in to the foreman who then carried them and used them to coach employees when they didn’t follow safety rules. Each new man was trained in safety procedures for his job before he started and was held accountable for complying with regulations. If a man was caught in violation of a safety regulation, such as running in the factory (with or without scissors), cleaning a machine while it was running, or using mushroom head tools that could catch and pull a man into a machine, they were sent up to the safety office to read through the safety bulletins and look at photos of industrial accidents from the plant. In rare cases of severe violation, a man was suspended, and if even more rarely, they were laid off for repeat safety offenses.
The pamphlet, Factory Facts from Ford noted in 1917: “Safety work concerns not only the loss of fingers and injuries of this nature, but undertakes to protect the health of the men as well.” To this end the hygiene side of the department pumped in washed air “at just the right temperature for comfort and efficient work,” provided filtered and cooled water in drinking fountains that were sanitized multiple times a day, placed dust collection systems in dusty work areas, and scrubbed the floors at least once a week, boasting that cleaners swept “even the spaces which the average housewife passes over.”
Shaw extended the Ford safety program outside the company as well and was a founding member of the Detroit Industrial Safety Council. The council was composed of various Detroit area manufacturers and focused on reducing accidents through increased awareness, better machines and guards, and improving factory policies and environment.
Kathy Makas is a Reference Archivist for the Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford. The Benson Ford Research Center is open Monday-Friday 9:00-5:00. Set up an appointment in our reading room or AskUs a question here.