Arsenal for Democracy
3 of 10

The Martin Bomber Plant:
Women

On March 24, 1942, Joan Catalano was the first woman inspector to be hired by Martin-Nebraska. Women were later hired as inspectors in receiving, detail manufacturing, general assembly, finishing and planting, hangars and flight test, and modifications departments at the plant.

Woman worker
A woman defense worker.
Women in Omaha probably had the same kind of experiences as women
in Topeka's Martin Plant
.

However, there were ominous indications that these gains might be temporary. Over 80% of the women hired by the plant were placed in jobs lowest on the classification tables. The Martin Star, published monthly at the Martin-Baltimore plant, praised women's "inborn quality for patience and their ability to make monotony an interesting thing," but went on to say that their intuition and originality could best be used at home:
"When certain foods and clothing become shortages [scarce] they [ideal women plant workers] cheerfully give up what they might need for their men at the front...They spend their evenings and spare time mending and restyling clothes, repairing their home appliances, knitting sweaters for their kiddies, and stretching their food rationing points."

In November of 1944 more than forty percent of the Martin Bomber Plant's nearly 12,000 employees were women, which made it Nebraska's largest recruiter of women war workers. Many of the women did not, at first, possess the basic skills necessary for the jobs for which they applied. Less than ten percent of the female applicants had any extensive experience with machinery. But, the Martin Company wanted to employ women on the same basis as men and declared that all "Martineers" were equal. Consequently, training classes and upgrading groups brought the women's skills to the required level. That goal became official policy.

Official Policy of the Martin Plant
"Since the ratio of women to men in the entire industry, now 1 to 8, must soon reach 4 to 8 in order to fill places left by men inducted into the armed forces, the largest training job of all is that of preparing women for shops and assembly lines."

For many new members of the workforce, many of them migrating from rural areas to the city, new jobs meant new social pressures.

"I lived with my parents, while he [husband, Lovern Blacksher] was in welding school at Steele City, Nebraska, and then when he got his job at Martin, Nebraska, [Bomber Plant] then we found housing — a little apartment — in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. We weren't too enthused about living in Omaha because we were country-reared and so on. Many of the private homes were opened to people because housing was very difficult. We had two small rooms which were normally bedrooms in the upstairs of a home. One was fixed as a kitchenette, and the other was the bedroom. [There was a] Very tiny closet and we shared a bathroom with another couple who lived on the second floor of the same house... Each couple was given one shelf in the landlady's refrigerator downstairs. We got along fine there."
     — Pauline Blacksher, Plattsmouth Martin Bomber Plant worker.