ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
MECHANIC'S SUIT DESCRIPTION AND ILLUSTRATION
As American men entered the armed forces and as industry mobilized to produce the weapons, accouterments, and other associated supplies required to wage war, manpower shortages occurred quickly. Consequently women who traditionally had not worked in manufacturing were recruited to fill the void. Additionally they were employed in other jobs ordinarily occupied by men. These women variously packed TNT into shell casings, pumped gas at service stations, riveted steel plates together on airplanes, drove taxis, and otherwise helped in producing the means of war and in keeping the home front functioning. Work was often hard, dirty, and monotonous, At first unmarried women and married women without young children were employed but by 1943 the demand was such that young mothers too entered the workplace. Long work days and work weeks became common and problems arose in the areas of day-care and juvenile delinquency.
Industrial work clothing needed to provide free movement without embarrassment and had to be close fitting in order to prevent accidents caused by garments becoming entangled in moving machinery. In adjusting to wartime realities the Chicago City Council amended an ordinance which provided for a $200 fine for any person "who shall appear in a public place in a dress not belonging to his or her sex." The clothing design depicted in this document was provided by the Bureau of Home Economics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Points to Consider
Why was this outfit practical?
Why was the garment pictured and described in this document designed for women?
Which kinds of jobs would a woman so attired have been employed in?
How common were female mechanics, gasoline station attendants, and industrial workers on the home front during WWII?