Girl Computers

In a top-secret program, talented, young female mathematicians calculated the artillery and bomb trajectories that American GIs used to win World War II

The air at 20,000 feet above Schweinfurt, Germany, was icy cold, but the bombardier crouching in the nose of the B-17 hardly noticed. Sweat poured down his forehead as flak rocked the aircraft, periodically spattering his compartment's Plexiglas bubble with fragments. He focused intently on preparing for the final bombing run.Read more »

Women’s History

It is trivializing women’s history to suggest that baby has come a long way in the last 50 years. Women have always considered their past, often through genealogies, storytelling, oral histories, and even quilts. But in the last half-century women’s history in books and articles has come of age. Read more »

The Immortality Of Mae West

Nearly a century after she came on the scene, her wit, bravado, and sexuality are a bigger presence than ever

When Mae West showed a trusted friend the manuscript of her 1970 autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It , he complained that the book lacked any mention of her struggles, failures, and disappointments. She scoffed. “Her fans don’t want Mae West to have problems and have to struggle,” she declared in confident third person. “Mae West always triumphs.”

 
Read more »

Women On The Way

How women entrepreneurs reshaped the American economic landscape in the wake of WWII.

When the National Foundation of Women Business Owners announced in May 1999 that women own nearly 40 percent of the nation’s businesses, there was little fanfare or surprise. Americans have become increasingly accustomed to female entrepreneurs as an economic force. Since 1987, the number of women-owned small businesses has more than doubled, to 9.1 million firms generating $3.6 trillion in annual sales. Read more »

The Lady Brakemen

Consigned to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Garbage Run,” they fought their own war on the home front, and they helped shape a victory as surely as their brothers and husbands did overseas

All the new lady brakemen on the Pennsylvania Railroad were put to work on what was officially known as the Jersey Coast Extra List. The crew dispatchers referred to it as the Women’s List, and the male brakemen, who had been consigned to it before the women were hired, called it the Garbage Run. It was also known as the meat—as opposed to the gravy, the cushy sit-down jobs on the main line Washington Express, which paid three times as much for about one-tenth the work.Read more »

1867: Women Readers

On November 2 the first issue of the Harper brothers’ new magazine Harper’s Bazar appeared, based on the sophisticated German publication Der Bazar and headed by the admired translator and historian of New York City Mary L. Booth. Fletcher Harper’s brothers had been reluctant at first to back the effort; the Bazar would be aimed chiefly at women, who were still only a vaguely felt force among readers. Nevertheless, Fletcher’s enthusiasm prevailed.Read more »

An Empire Of Women

E.G. Lewis decided that a strong man could liberate American women and make money doing it

THE CELEBRATION began even before the opening gavel of the First American Woman’s League Convention. As the thousand arriving delegates made their way out Delmar Boulevard to University City, a new suburb of St. Louis, storefronts hung with flags and bunting greeted them. Trolleys, wagons, and even a railroad train made a kind of procession to a camp of gay circus tents, complete with a hospital. The delegates had come for what they believed would be a turning point in the lives of American women. Read more »

Rosie The Riveter Remembers

For millions of women, consciousness raising didn’t start in the 1960s. It started when they helped win World War II.

DURING THE FIRST three years of World War II, five million women covered their hair, put on “slacks,” and at the government’s urging went to work in defense plants. They did every kind of job, but the largest single need was for riveters. In song, story, and film, the female patriot, “Rosie the Riveter,” was born. Many of the new recruits had worked in service trades—as maids, cooks, or waitresses. Many more had never worked at any paying job. Practically none of them had ever made as much money.Read more »

My Radcliffe

The author recalls two generations of “Cliffie” life—hers and her mother’s—in the years when male and female education took place on opposite sides of the Cambridge Common and women were expected to wear hats in Harvard Square

My mother was a member of the class of 1899 at Radcliffe College, having come east from St. Paul, Minnesota—a sort of reverse pioneer. She was one of the two or three students from west of the Berkshires and was considered rather exotic by her classmates because of her Midwestern background, which she loved to describe in exaggerated detail, implying that a fresh Indian scalp was hung over the fireplace every week or so. Her years at Radcliffe were, it seems, passed in a state of continual euphoria.Read more »

What Did Tocqueville Really Say About American Women?

Mr. Richard Reeves alleges that Tocqueville “thought American women were docile” (“If Tocqueville Could See Us Now,” June/July issue). Tocqueville never used the word docile about American women, and he actually wrote the exact opposite about them. Read more »