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women in the weather bureau during world war 2

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In 1941, the United States entered a World War that would significantly alter the future of this country. At that time, the economy was beginning to emerge from a deep depression, and the isolationist point-of-view was disappearing.

At the family level, the man was viewed as the "bread winner," and women cared for the home and looked after the children. Overnight, this "typical family" concept was changed as men went to war and women accepted war-production jobs.

In 1941, the Weather Bureau was beginning to make technological and scientific advances. Both the teletype and radiosonde were still relatively new to the Bureau (less than 10 years had elapsed since their implementation), and research was being conducted into the coupling of upper-air atmospheric conditions to surface weather patterns. By today's standards, the weather office of the early 1940s was Spartan, containing a few desks, thermometers, barometers, a teletype, and light tables. Also during this time, office staffs were comprised entirely of men. In 1941, only two women were listed in the observer and forecaster ranks of the Weather Bureau.

This staffing ratio was changed dramatically during World War II. By 1945 over 900 women were working as Weather Bureau observers and forecasters, and many offices were comprised almost entirely of women. As with other parts of the U.S. war society, women stepped into Weather Bureau offices and showed they could perform observing and forecasting duties as well as, if not better than, men.

Despite exhaustive literature searches (manual and computerized) of the NOAA library, Library of Congress, and university libraries, no documentation could be found on the many contributions women made to the Weather Bureau during World War II. Since many of those women are now in their 60s, 70s, or 80s, it is appropriate that they be formally recognized for their devotion during the National Weather Service Centennial Celebration. This publication documents the experiences and impressions of women who worked for the Weather Bureau during World War II. As one reads through these narratives, certain underpinnings become clear. It is obvious all these women possess a "can-do" attitude. They were enthusiastic workers in the Weather Bureau and remained active after leaving government service. They also were extremely dedicated; many indicated their proudest accomplishments were associated with taking perfect observations, making good radio (live) broadcasts, performing quality pilot briefings, etc.

To many, the Weather Bureau was a positive experience. They indicated they generally were well treated by management and accepted by other workers. The term "Weather Bureau Family" appears several times in the document. For a few, observing and forecasting the weather was considerably more exciting than other jobs, and a sense existed of contributing to the war effort. For the most part, women in this document were in their early 20s when they entered the Weather Bureau. Education varied from high school to college, and most had limited work experience of any type, although a few had been teachers.

During World War II, most women entered the Weather Bureau as Junior Observers, although some later became forecasters. On-the-job training was provided by the Weather Bureau initially; however, training courses lasting two months eventually were established at several Regional Offices.

Only a small fraction of the women who worked in the Weather Bureau during World War II are mentioned in this document, but it should provide an indication of conditions during the 1940s. The first part of this publication presents an overview of the war years as women entered the work force in large numbers, as well as basic information about the Weather Bureau. The second and more important part is comprised of individual stories from the women themselves. Almost 50 years have elapsed since the beginning of World War II. Although this publication is only a sketch of the many contributions made by Weather Bureau women during the war, it is an attempt to recognize the hard work, commitment, and devotion of these individuals. In short, it is a token of the sincere appreciation offered by a grateful agency.

Dr. Elbert W. Friday
Assistant Administrator for Weather Services

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Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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