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Dear Ms. Ciampi,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
The majority of women that worked for factories making war material during the World Wars were employees of private companies contracted by the federal government rather than employees of the federal government. NARA does not have records for these employees. If these records still exist, they may still be in the custody of the companies that created them or their successors.
However, many women did work at the smaller number of manufacturing arsenals that were fully owned and operated by the federal government, such as the Springfield Armory. For example, during World War II, female employees of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department were referred to as Women Ordnance Workers (WOWs). In addition to working at the Ordnance Department owned arsenals, WOWs also worked in other capacities, such as civilian vehicle mechanics on army posts. According to The History of Ordnance in America, there were approximately 85,000 Women Ordnance Workers.
Personnel files for civilian employees of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department employees as well as their Navy Department counterparts are the National Archives at St. Louis (RL-SL). However, we do not have any records specifically listing all of these employees. Sometimes rosters for specific organizations may be located within individual Official Personnel Folders (OPFs) that might mention coworkers. Therefore, requesting the OPFs of any known individual is one place to start. Please note that women's records may be difficult to track down due to name changes from marriage. For more information about researching these records, please contact RL-SL at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RL-SL. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.
The Springfield Armory National Historic Site, the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park, the U.S. Army Ordnance Museum, the National WWI Museum & Memorial, the National WWII Museum, and similar institutions may have information about some of the women who served in these roles.
We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!
1 person found this helpful
I conducted research at Archves 2 several years ago on a world war 2 munitions plant in Maryland. I ended up looking in a number of different record groups to compile the research (I was not looking for a specific person). Among the most useful records was RG211, Records of the War Manpower Commission. In RG 211's Regional Records, for example, I found lists of interviewees, the status of their application, etc.
These records included reports on a number of other munitions plants.
Because this was a Naval facility, I also found useful records in RG 80, Records of the Navy. Additionally, I used the index cards for RG60, Department of Justice to find references to the plant in their records.
I chose a dozen women who were hired, and followed up with genealogical research on them. Local histories of the town where the plant was located were also helpful, as was the town newspaper.
It was a challenging but fun project! Good luck!