Women in Railroading During World War II Pt 1.

Photo: Women railroad mechanic (1940's) at the Long Island Railroad.
Photo: Mach 1943 - Seligam, Arizona. Teletype operatr in the telegraph office of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad - Shorpy Old Photos.

Women in Railroading During World War II Pt 1.

World War II marked a pivotal era in history, not only for the unprecedented global conflict but also for the transformative impact it had on societal norms and expectations. During this time, women stepped into roles in the railroad industry that were once considered exclusively for men.

As the war raged on, women were hired to fill a myriad of roles within the railroad industry. Building upon the groundwork laid during World War I, women were not only clerks and stenographers but also agents, ticket sellers, messengers, operators, and draftswomen. However, their influence extended far beyond traditional office roles; women worked in railroad shops as cleaners, sweepers, material handlers, rivet catchers, turntable operators, and engine cleaners. Remarkably, women took on positions as diverse as engineers, locomotive firewomen, brake women, crossing guards, conductors, streetcar motor women, hewers of ties, railway horticulturists, railroad lawyers, presidents or vice presidents of steam railroads, crane operators, and even served as doctors and nurses in railroad hospitals.

In the South Louisville shops alone, over 200 women contributed their skills and dedication to the war effort. A photograph from the 1940s depicts a woman railroad mechanic at the Long Island Railroad, symbolizing the expanding presence of women in traditionally male-dominated spaces.

World War II marked a transformative period for women in railroading, as they stepped into diverse and challenging roles, proving their competence, and breaking down long-standing gender barriers. The contributions of these women during the war laid the foundation for continued progress toward gender equality in the railroad industry and beyond.

When visiting the Historic RailPark & Train Museum you will see our expanded “Women In Railroading” exhibit. The exhibit features information on the jobs women had, pay, Rosie the Riveter, Kathryn Brown-Gilbert, and so much more.