Table of Contents
About the Photos
About the Author
Bridgeport, 1915-1916
From Chapter 3 of Rosie's Mom

Suddenly, in the early months of 1915, the depression lifted. The warring nations of Europe needed arms and ammunition, and the United States--officially neutral--was free to supply both sides. Across the industrial north, factories began to order materials and buy equipment. Plants that had stood nearly idle began producing nails, rivets, nuts, and bolts to send overseas. Steel mills re-stoked their fires and built new furnaces; shipyards began to order lumber again; ammunition plants needed chemicals; railroads purchased track supplies; gun makers ordered lathes and milling machines.(1) And all of these industries, of course, needed workers. Since the onset of the war, however, the flood of immigration from Europe had essentially ceased. At Ellis Island, nearly as many people were leaving--heading east to fight in their homelands--as were arriving in America. And so in the American cities and towns where arms and ammunition were made, the desperate unemployment of 1914 became the labor shortage of 1915. At first the factory owners brought in men from other industries and other towns; but by summer employers began to see that the still gaping shortage of workers would have to be filled by women.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the labor shortage hit hard and fast...

The annealing room at the Remington Union Metallic Cartridge plant in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Photograph courtesy of the National Archives at College Park (RG 86, box 8, Signal Corps photo 28778).

(1) See, for example, New York Times, Sunday 11 July 1915, 9.