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Rare Color Photographs of Women at Work During WW2

When millions of men joined the armed forces, women had to replace them by taking jobs that previously had been held by men – such as bank teller, shoe salesperson or even aircraft mechanic. Woman started working in factories – this was called the “Rosie the Riveter” phenomenon.

Although we’re blessed of not having to witness the atrocities of World War II, some people take great interest in the history of the period. Dave Hall, fascinated by the authentic photographs from the time, brings them back to life by color correcting, toning, and sharpening to restore the brilliant texture and amazing sharpness found in the original negatives and glass plates[1]. Most of the pictures come from the Library of Congress, and were originally taken by Alfred T. Palmer who worked for the Office of War Information (responsible for promoting patriotism, war news management and women recruitment). His photos had to lure young women into the factories by showing women workers as glamorous and even fashionable.

Dave is also running a vintage photo blog, where he publishes his retouched photos. The website is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, who lived over 100 years ago, and today features thousands of high definition images from the 1850s to the 1950s. Some of them could really be confused for contemporary photography!


Plane Jane: 1942

October 1942. Long Beach, California. “Women are trained to do precise and vital engine installation detail in Douglas Aircraft Co. plants.”

Kodachrome Goes to War: 1942

October 1942. “Women are trained as engine mechanics in thorough Douglas training methods. Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California.”

The Red Socks: 1942

October 1942. Yet another still from the Technicolor pajama party that was the American aircraft industry in World War II: “Women at work on bomber, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California.”

Rosie at Work: 1942

June 1942. Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California.

Doing Her Part: 1942

October 1942. Inglewood, California. “Young woman employee of North American Aviation working over the landing gear mechanism of a P-51 fighter plane.”

Just You Wait, Mr. Hitler: 1942

October 1942. Long Beach, California. “Girl riveting machine operator at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant joins sections of wing ribs to reinforce the inner wing assemblies of B-17F heavy bombers.”

Marcella and Elibia: 1943

Women employed as roundhouse wipers having lunch, Chicago & North Western Railroad, Clinton, Iowa. Marcella Hart is at left, Mrs. Elibia Siematter at right. April 1943

The Avenger: 1943

Working on a “Vengeance” dive-bomber at Vultee-Nashville. February 1943.

Agnes of Milwaukee: 1943

February 1943. Heil & Co., Milwaukee. “Agnes Cliemka, age 23, husband may be going into the service any day. Agnes used to work in a department store. Checking fuel hose on gasoline trailer before it is turned over to the Air Force.”

A Nice Hot Cup of Delicious Air

October 1942. Girl worker at lunch also absorbing California sunshine, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach.

War Machine: 1942

October 1942. Engine installers at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, California.

Angel of History: 1942

B-25 bomber cowl assembly, North American Aviation, Kansas City, Kansas. October 1942.

Fort Worth: 1942

October 1942. Lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

Paging Rosie: 1942

October 1942. “Douglas Aircraft plant at Long Beach, California. An A-20 bomber being riveted by a woman worker.” (With, yes, a power drill.)

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  • Katarzyna Fontana via Facebook

    Why not!!! ;)

  • Karl Ott via Facebook


  • Marife Alvarez via Facebook

    as long as its decent then sure..

  • Brian Martin via Facebook

    There’s none of them in the kitchen

  • Steinar Simonsen via Facebook

    This is sooo hot! Steamy even.

  • Carsten Wiehe via Facebook

    Det var den gang der var rigtige kvinder til! Det får man ikke mange til i dag.

  • Sandruschka Negativa via Facebook
    there were many women working during the WW2, it’s not that astonishing.

  • Ив Ет via Facebook

    and all are wearing make up while working during WWII. Yeah right?

  • Marijke Mexsenaar-Peterse via Facebook

    Mooie foto’s zeg !

  • Kate Jones via Facebook

    Love these photos.

  • Sue Porter via Facebook

    In the UK at the moment, even a degree can’t get a more interesting job than working in a supermarket.

  • RCinNYC

    My Mom (Irene Peterson Morgen) was a WWII worker in a General Motors “Eastern Aircraft” factory in West Trenton, NJ. Every day she was neatly dressed in a dark blue uniform, with a pretty hanky in her pocket, and she wore a cap which covered her hair, and wore white socks and saddle shoes which she whitened each night. She never came home dirty, (I was about 7 to 11 during that war so I was there!) and I was proud that my Mom helped make Grumman Avenger airplanes for the US Navy all during the war from 1942 to 1945. Prior to that war, she was making 1940 and 1941 Chevrolets for GM. And before that she worked for the “5&10″, W.T. Grant, when I was a baby. After the War, she went back to being a “housewife” and had two more children. Mom was a Shop Steward for the Union (AFL/CIO) and was a respected Supervisor of her department. Mom helped my step-father in his business, so didn’t “work” after that, until as a widow, she had two younger sons to raise. She was an example to all of us in her work effort and her dutiful life.