Working Girls


I found these amazing colour photographs on the Denver Post’s Blog. What I love about them is not just that they are old colour photographs (when the world was black and white) and not just that they are of ordinary working class Americans but also how many of them depict working class women in the science, engineering and technology industries.

Woman is working on a "Vengeance" dive bomber Tennessee, February 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Much of our imagined women’s history is confused by the idea that before feminism, every married woman was a domestic slave or eager housewife. This may be true of the upper and middle classes, but the majority of women worked, even after they were married, to help pay the bills. And as these photos show, they weren’t all seamstresses and waitresses. These gals had cool (hard) jobs.

Mrs. Viola Sievers, one of the wipers at the roundhouse giving a giant "H" class locomotive a bath of live steam. Clinton, Iowa, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Women workers employed as wipers in the roundhouse having lunch in their rest room, Chicago and Northwest Railway Company. Clinton, Iowa, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

All of these photos are brilliant artistically, and it isn’t just the colour that give them a smack of reality. I really recommend taking a couple of minutes to look through them. The kids with the bare feet, the grime, the human encounters – they are a real treat, and an eye opener.

The entire collection is here enjoy!


Iszi Lawrence is an English comedian and paid doodler. Iszi helps run skeptics in the pub Oxford and performs throughout Europe. Listen to her free weekly podcast She has up to ten toes at any one time.

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  1. It’s hard to deny the effect WWII had on the feminist movement. There was a huge push backwards in the 50’s but it didn’t stop the seeds from growing. Once women had built jet fighters, it was hard to deny that they could do any job they wanted to.

    Rosie the Riveter is an icon. I think the first image there was staged to emulate her.

  2. I stumbled across that site awhile back, from Photojojo I think, and on going down the rabbit hole, ended up looking into Vietnam War photography. There are some really interesting stories and documentaries about that – including some of the VietCong side. I also got sucked into some stuff by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky from the 1910s. It’s all so amazingly fascinating.

  3. I find it weird how much of a dissonance the last picture creates in me. I know the world wasn’t actually black and white in 1943, but I have a hard time accepting those vivid colours as “real”.

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