My mother graduated from high school in June of 1942 and went to work in a brass factory. The factory was built in the 1890s, and before the outbreak of World War II it made brass faucets and pipe fittings. It was retooled to make shell casings for artillery and turned into a munitions factory as part of the war effort. The factory ran three shifts around the clock to help keep the armed forces supplied. Most of the workers were women because nearly all the able-bodied men were overseas fighting in the military.
The factory was not air conditioned in the summer and the heat was terrible. It was also very noisy. My mother and the other workers were often called on to work double shifts because the demand for artillery shells was so great. This meant they often stood for sixteen hours or more at a time at their milling machines with few breaks. Their feet would swell so badly from standing up in one place for such a long time that the women wore work boots a size or two larger than their normal shoes.
The workers were frequently warned to not discuss their work at the factory with anyone. Enemy spies might try to gain information from them which the enemy could then use to destroy the factory, or sabotage the munitions the women were making.
My mother worked there until the end of the war. She often spoke not only of how hard they had all worked, but also how determined everyone had been to support the war effort through to victory. They truly were the “Greatest Generation.”
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