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Demobilized
From Chapter 7 of Rosie's Mom

The first layoffs came swiftly. As soon as the Armistice was signed, women on the night shift at the Frankford Arsenal were let go. By November 14, Curtiss Aeroplane had discharged 3,000 people. In Bridgeport, the Remington-Union Metallic Cartridge company announced plans to release up to half of its workforce. Fifteen machine shops in Worcester, Massachusetts had, by late December, laid off more than twelve hundred women, and expected to release the rest of them as soon as the war contracts were finished.(1)

In other industries, change came less quickly. Two million American men were still in Europe and would take many months to come home. In the stateside training camps and in the factories, a great influenza epidemic was killing thousands of Americans a week. And so in the secondary war industries, women would hold on to their jobs a bit longer. Meat packers still had to send food to the troops in Europe. Machine tools, once again needed for making consumer goods, were still in short supply. At Jones & Lamson, James Hartness called a meeting to assure the women that the company still needed them, and so Caraola Cramm continued "side-by-side" with the shop boys for a time.(2) On the railroads, too, women's departure would be slow, and sometimes painful.(3) Florence Clark, a field agent for the U.S. Railroad Administration, had been hired to protect them; she would instead be watching them go.

Engine wipers in Great Falls, Montana. War Department photograph, courtesy of the National Archives at College Park (165 WW-595D [14]).

(1) Memo to Benedict Crowell, 13 November 1918, RG 86 MLR Entry 7, Box 2; Seattle Union Record, Final Edition, 14 November 1918, 1; National War Labor Board Docket 132; "Summary of Certain Plant Investigations," Woman in Industry Service, RG86, MLR Entry 7, Box 2, p. 2, NACP; "Rock Island Arsenal," memo from Helen Bryan to Mary Van Kleeck, 1 July 1919, MVK, folder 1616.

(2) "Jones & Lamson News," Springfield Reporter, 21 November 1918, 7.

(3) In this entire chapter, I am indebted to Maurine Greenwald's Women, War, and Work: The Impact of World War I on Women Workers in the United States (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1980).