December 7, 1941

WW II Sends Record Number of Bay State Women to Work

Greater Boston

On this day in 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor launched the people of Massachusetts into World War II — and out of the Depression. The state's industrial cities and shipyards sprang back to life to meet wartime demand for munitions, ships, and military supplies. But with men leaving to enlist, there was a sudden labor shortage; women stepped forward as "production soldiers," taking their place on assembly lines. In the mill town of Lowell, where women had traditionally worked unskilled jobs for low wages, new opportunities opened, offering independence, self-respect, and money. At the end of the war, many women lost their jobs to returning soldiers, but others, armed with new skills, remained. The number of working women never again fell to pre-war levels.

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