In 1943 America's defense industries were so desperate for workers that school teachers were asked to work in factories during summer vacation. Slacks and Calluses is the story of two women--the image of "dignified schoolteacher-hood"--who went to work for Consolidated Vultee Aircraft, building bombers on the swing shift. Constance and Clara Marie traded their linen suits and "swooping" hats for blue cotton factory slacks and sturdy shoes, filled out dozens of government forms, packed up their few tools in what they hoped would pass for tool boxes--"small lunch boxes, the unpleasant color of unripe green olives"--and presented themselves for work. Over the next two months, they learned to use a wide range of tools, climbing in and out of B-24 Liberator bombers performing final installations--electrical wiring, seatbelt brackets, life rafts, bomb bay doors, the works. They also learned to deal with aching muscles and feet, grimy hands, lost sleep, and "dural termites"--slivers of duraluminum from the aircraft walls that worked their way under the skin. Even more trying was the change in the way they were treated--because they were wearing slacks. Female sales clerks were no longer polite, while men no longer offered their seats on crowded buses yet felt free to grab or whistle at them on the street. "Clothes, we reflected sadly, make the woman--and some clothes make the man think that he can make the woman."
Throughout the summer, the women kept pencils and notepads in their toolboxes, Constance noting stories and profiling her coworkers, Clara Marie making sketches. A few months later, in 1944, their memoir was first published. The resulting text sparkles with immediacy and with the women's ebullient wit. With its first-hand look at women war workers and its behind-the-scenes look at the building of the B-24, Slacks and Calluses provides a refreshingly different angle on World War II. --Sunny Delaney
"An enjoyable book, a smooth read, a vibrant reminder of a time of near-unanimous citizen support for American political strategies and goals. It harkens from an era when the myth of 'one America' still held sway. It is also a tale of two women negotiating gender, identity, autonomy and cross-class insights. Fifty-six years later, readers are fortunate the authors put pencil to paper each night upon their return home from the bomber factory. Theirs is a story worth hearing and remembering.” —The Journal of San Diego History
"Bowman and Allen's journal-like account offers valuable insights into the experiences of these two young, white women who engaged in decidedly unfeminine behavior, by the standards of 1943, on behalf of the war effort."—The Historian
"Without being the least bit polemic, Bowman Reid teaches us about the war roles of men and women and how the changing costumes of women - from linen skirts to slacks - reflects socioeconomic change."—San Jose Mercury News
They literally paved the way for the rest of us and this book tells of that experience in a wonderfully humorous way.
It's a slice of World War 2 history, and the hilariously snide remarks by one of the "Rosie the Riveter" type girls just MAKES the book!
The authors were two high school teachers, who subjects - English and Art - made them the perfect duo to write this book.
I worked in Columbus at North American Aviation in 1962 and all of this strikes home, how we climbed in and out of planes all day and night, first, second, third shirts. Read morePublished 19 days ago by wendell2
This is a reprint of a book originally published over 50 years ago. But it reads as though the action was yesterday. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ron Yancey
What a great little book. It's on the thin side, but well worth purchasing in my opinion. It's a slice of World War 2 history, and the hilariously snide remarks by one of the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Kelly
This is an exceptional little book. Really, it is small - only about 200 pages with contemporary illustrations by one of the authors- and about 6x6 inches. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Pvt. W.G. Kirby
I saw this book mentioned in a blog and simply had to get it. It's a sweet, funny story of two young schoolteachers who spent their summer vacation doing defense work. Read morePublished 16 months ago by H. D. Stiskal
pleasant read.interesting perspective on a time period. Decently written. Delightful window into a different era and culture. Left me wanting a bit more.Published 18 months ago by Johannes Wessels
When I purchaces this kindle book I was set to read a fictional novel set in the 40's. What I got was autobiography of the author that was set in the 3 months that they worked in... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
A great read and true story. Provides a wonderful view of two teachers working in a World War II defense plant during their summer break. Read morePublished on March 11, 2012 by Diethard Lindner