Tag Archives: Government Documents

Women in World War II: Rosie the Riveter and Beyond

girlsofatomiccityI recently finished reading The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan. It is a fascinating look into a town that never existed on any map but had a HUGE influence on the outcome of World War II. Although not all of the residents were women, of course, the story is told through the lives of several different ladies who found themselves at this historic place. These women varied in the amount of education they had received, their race, marital status and part of the country they were from, but all of them contributed to output that Oak Ridge was designed to create – enriched uranium for use in the first atomic bombs, including the ones dropped on Japan in August of 1945.

As I was reading this book, it reminded me of another I had read a few years ago about the North Platte Canteen in Nebraska, also during World War II. Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by Bob Greene tells the story of a very small town that was on the major railway line almost all U.S. troops used during their transport from basic training to deployment. Onceonceuponatown the people in the town realized who was passing through their area, they made sure that no matter what time of the day or night, each and every train would be met with smiling faces and food. This town used its rationing coupons, not for themselves, but to help scared soldiers – many away from home for the first time – feel appreciated and loved. Every single train had a birthday celebration, complete with a cake. Many soldiers remembered their stop in North Platte decades later, even though it may only have lasted ten minutes. By the time the war was over, the North Platte Canteen had taken care of over 6 million soldiers. That’s just staggering for a town of about 12,000 people. Once again, not everyone in North Platte who helped at the canteen was female, but we all know who was baking those cakes and making the sandwiches.

This all got me to thinking about the various roles women played in World War II, both in and out of the military. For Women’s History Month 2015, consider finding out more about how the “fairer sex” contributed to the winning of the war, both at home and abroad. Here are a few items that might be of interest…

bandsofsistersBands of Sisters: U.S. Women’s Military Bands during World War II by Jill M. Sullivan – I bet you knew that there were/are military bands. But did you know that in World War II all of the branches of the military had their own women’s band as well? They were used to support troop morale and to recruit women to the armed services. In some cities they were greeted warmly and given keys to the city. In other places, they were unjustly run out of town. The music biz is never an easy one!

Beyond Rosie the Riveter: Women of World War II in American Popular Graphic Art by Donna B. Knaff – During World War II, women were encouraged to take on jobs that were normally reserved for men. Propaganda posters at the time, such as Rosie the Riveter, certainly reflected this idea. However at the same time, women were being encouraged through the same media to not lose their femininity. This contrast makes for a thought-provoking study.

Bitter Fruit: African American Women in World War II edited by Maureen Honey – This is a collection of poetry, essays and photographs compiling the history and the contributions of African American women in World War II. Although they were largely left out of the propaganda and recruitment posters, these women participated in every aspect of the war and home front that their white counterparts did. These writings, many not seen since their original publication, show the lives of women of color and you can see the roots of the civil rights movement within the stories.

fromcoverallsFrom Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front by Elizabeth R. Escobedo – If you thought finding the voices of African American women and their experiences during this time period was difficult, imagine the lack of information about Latino women. This book does a nice job identifying how they contributed to the war effort, while still needing to combat the prejudices of the nation they were serving. I especially liked getting to see some of the bilingual wartime propaganda posters.

Good Girls, Good Food, Good Fun: The Story of USO Hostesses during World War II by Meghan K. Winchell – Servicemen relied on the USO to provide them with a recreational outlet and some sense of normalcy during World War II. However, the recruitment process for the hostesses was biased. It served to reinforce stereotypes of the working class, as well as women of color. The military felt that if they exposed soldiers to “good” girls, they wouldn’t feel the need to seek out the “bad” ones. How the women excluded from participating made their inroads to volunteering and what those who were selected for the USO thought about life within its social constraints provides interesting reading.

Our Mother’s War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin – This book all began when the author found a journal and letters her mother had written while serving with the Red Cross in the Pacific. It is a good overview of many of the roles women played during World War II – wives and mothers at home, entertainers, WACs and WAVES in the military, spies, politicians, and even those who worked for the enemy.

winningWinning My Wings: A Woman Airforce Service Pilot in World War II by Marion Stegeman Hodgson – Marion was one of the first women trained to fly military aircraft with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).  The WASPs flew airplanes stateside to test their repairs or deliver new aircraft to the airmen who would then fly them into combat. It was a dangerous job, as Marion recounts in her letters to the wounded Marine pilot she eventually marries after the war.

Women Against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941-1947 by Rachel Waltner Goossen – For those who objected to the war, there were still opportunities to be of service. Many women, often with religious anti-war beliefs, joined the Civilian Public Service to do forestry work, disaster relief training, or to work in hospitals stateside. This organized pacifist culture had some benefits for those who wanted to contribute something of a humanitarian nature during wartime. But they were more often met with prejudice because of their convictions, and some found it hard to find employment once the war was over as veterans were coming back to the workforce.

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood – This contains stories of women from many countries, but the United States is well represented. I wanted to make sure something that explained the secret side of the war was on this list. Included within, you will find Virginia Hall – once considered the most dangerous Allied agent in France, Muriel Phillips –a Jewish nurse at a tent hospital in France during the Battle of the Bulge and Marlene Dietrich – who entertained the troops as part of the USO, while also involved in an OSS propaganda campaign aimed toward the German troops.

womenwhowroteThe Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel – We know it takes bravery to be a soldier, but imagine the guts needed to be the first person inside a recently freed concentration camp, just BEFORE the rescuing troops enter. Now picture that person as a woman, because for the camp at Dachau in southern Germany, it was. The women journalists and photographers who were sent oversees to cover World War II were amazing and inspiring, as are their stories.

View of women Marines carrying out the repair and reconditioning of fighting airplanes during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

View of women Marines carrying out the repair and reconditioning of fighting airplanes during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

topsecretTop Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II produced & directed by LeAnn Erickson; written by Cynthia Baughman – This is the story of six of the women mathematicians originally recruited by the Army to be human computers tabulating ballistics trajectories. Once the first electronic computer was created (ENIAC), they needed people to program it. These six women were those people. They never received recognition for their absolutely vital role in the winning of World War II, nor for their pioneering work in the field of electronic computers. That’s a crime as far as I’m concerned.

Women in World War II: 13 Films Featuring America’s Secret Weapon courtesy of the National Archives of the United States – This is a collection of actual wartime propaganda short films. Their purpose was to encourage women to join the war supporting industries, as well as to convince both sexes that women were actually up to any and all of the tasks formally done exclusively by men. Highlights include “Women of Steel”, the one narrated by Katherine Hepburn, and getting to see Eleanor Roosevelt in living color.

Soon arrving in Hawaii, women Marine Reserves stand to for evening colors at Pearl Harbor, during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

Soon after arriving in Hawaii, women Marine Reserves stand to for evening colors at Pearl Harbor, during World War II, 1940s. (Photo by US Marine Corps/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

And One Government Document:
Breaking Codes, Breaking Barriers: The WACs of the Signal Security Agency World War II courtesy of Karen Kovach, History Office, Office of the Chief of Staff, US Army Intelligence and Security Command – World War II ushered in an era where women were needed in military service in far greater numbers than ever before in American history and for a wider range of occupations. This slim volume belies the importance of the job of the women contained within. They were tasked with breaking the encryption of the enemies’ messages. By doing so, they saved countless lives.  Especially poignant is the quote about the day of the bomb drop from the WAC assigned to monitor Hiroshima, “I came on to my trick and started tuning to my assigned frequencies. I was copying Hiroshima, it was one of my stations, but I couldn’t find it. I’m saying to myself, ‘what the heck is the matter?’ I’m dialing all around, searching all over the place trying to pick it up, trying to locate the signal. There was nothing there.”

-Melissa M.

P.S. Did you notice the interesting thing about almost all of the authors in this list? They are all female. Huh. Women writing about women’s history. What an idea!


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Lies, Damn Lies, and Librarians

You wouldn’t know the truth if it kicked you in the head. – Hitch

I sometimes wonder if the First Amendment should be conditional, though I’m not sure what the criteria or who the arbiter would be.  It can’t be based on education; too many supposedly educated people are horse’s patooties. It goes without saying that it cannot be left up to government at any level or to any party. So, even though I empathize with the Hamiltonians rather than the Jeffersonians, I’ll defer to Jefferson on this one.


Thomas Jefferson


Alexander Hamilton

Where did this originate from to throw my otherwise good nature off (the time is truly ripe for a baseball piece, isn’t it?) I’m sure many of you have online affinity or discussion groups you participate in or observe.  If you’re a Facebook user, you’re used to seeing someone’s snippet of an idea that may or may not convey a profound level of intellectual thought.  At any rate my friends (real and FB imaginary) and I float in that direction rather than posting inane pictures of our cats, dogs and other drooling pets. One of the things I try to do is to mix-up the choir a little bit. Where’s the fun in engaging in discourse if everyone has the same worldview? Ragging on the opposition in a unanimous voice has to get boring, doesn’t it? However, every so often something happens, or someone writes / posts something that leaves you honestly concluding “the zombie apocalypse would be a breath of fresh air.” (I was actually much harsher in an expletive laden sort of way.)  Here’s what was posted:

Saw this and a succession of commentary and my sense of what’s right & wrong went into skeptical overdrive.  Needless to say, using rather common Librarian superpowers (readily available to mere mortals, but don’t tell anyone,) I satisfied myself and some other well intentioned folk that former Fed chief Greenspan never said this, and never endorsed this kind of economic view in any forum.

What Alan Greenspan did do, in testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in 1997, was outline several of the reasons why inflation was still low to non-existent in the previous 3-4 year period.  Among the reasons he cited and the evidence provided were a recent history of longer union contracts, fewer labor-management conflicts and fewer workers moving between jobs.  He also concluded that the then current phenomena of worker insecurity needed to be further studied to find fully accurate causes.  I will say, he did it in florid and terribly dry fashion –

“The reluctance of workers to leave their jobs to seek other employment as the labor market tightened has provided further evidence of such concern, as has the tendency toward longer labor union contracts. For many decades, contracts rarely exceeded three years. Today, one can point to five- and six-year contracts–contracts that are commonly characterized by an emphasis on job security and that involve only modest wage increases. The low level of work stoppages of recent years also attests to concern about job security.”

The link above takes you to the catalog record for our holdings (on fiche) of the hearings that Chairman Greenspan appeared before, but you can also go one additional step to prove a point (and pass on the fiche.)

1. Testimony of Chairman Alan Greenspan; The Federal Reserve’s semiannual monetary policy report, Before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate. February 26, 1997

2. Job Insecurity of Workers Is a Big Factor in Fed Policy By Louis Uchitelle –New York Times. February 27, 1997

We did this once before around here, only the subject was then Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and the accusation was that as Mayor of Wasilla, she had actively pursued the censoring of materials from the Wasilla Library.  A little legwork by library staff debunked that story too.  I am a firm believer in letting the honest facts speak for themselves, and letting people prove they aren’t worthy of my time or consideration by dint of their real sins, not the imagined ones.

– Richard

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A Brief Plea for Government Documents

As CLP’s government documents librarian, I’m privy to a lot of updates about government publications.  Of late it seems that many of those updates are about resources that are getting cut.  The Statistical Abstract, American Community Survey, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, and the U.S. Code General Index have all turned up on the chopping block lately.  What’s notable isn’t that resources are getting cut– things change, and publications come and go– but that these are heavy hitters. Each of these are resources that are widely used and function as key sources of information.

So far, only the Statistical Abstract has been officially cut (although the 2013 budget is being finalized as we speak and other resources might still get the boot) , and a private company has decided to take over its publication.  Hooray!  But it’s not all good news.  As a Federal Depository Library, CLP receives free (that’s right- free!) government publications including this key title.  Now we’ll have to pay what I’m guessing will be a fairly pricey fee to get this, and we will likely only get the print copy (right now the online version is free; once it’s taken over by a private publisher it will be a subscription database). If cut, will those other resources get picked up by private companies as well?  It’s possible, even likely.  And that leads me to the big question that’s been bumping around in my head lately:  what exactly is the library’s role in all of this?  Do we have a responsibility to make sure this information stays publicly available?  Does it really matter where the information comes from, as long as it continues to exist?

I tend to think it does matter, but then again, I work with government documents for a living.  But the Federal Depository Library Program was started in order to make sure that the public had free and easy access to government information.  I tend to think that part of our role, as an FDL, is to help preserve that information.  Even if private companies take over the research, compiling, and publishing, they don’t have the same obligation to the American public that a government office does (in my opinion, at least!).  Information that was previously “free” (technically paid for with our tax dollars I suppose, but freely available at any rate) will now cost.  The people who gather that information will no longer have any obligation to ensure that the data remains transparent.  And I think it could also mean the difference between getting reliable information from an accountable source and getting information from a source that doesn’t have the same type of public responsibility.

That’s my opinion on the matter (no cuts!!) but I’d love to hear yours too.  If you are interested in stopping some of the cuts, check out this petition for a start, write a letter to the editor, or contact your representative.  Since I don’t want this post to get too long, I’ll spare you the missives on why the Statistical Abstract is so awesome, and why the American Community Survey is essential; you can read more about them here and here.



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Iron & Steel: Epilogue


As someone not born or raised here, I’ve always been struck by the split in opinions regarding Andrew Carnegie and his legacy.  Was he an innovative industrialist and role-model philanthropist, or a robber-baron of the worst stripe, more than willing to trod on the backs of his workers?  At the same time, most everyone I’ve met, regardless of where they are on the Carnegie spectrum, are equally proud of and fascinated by the legacy and history of the steel industry in this region.  People are proud of both what their family members may have done or where they worked, and  that they are products of this region regardless of who “their” people were or where they worked; of being Western Pennsylvanians.

As we assembled material for and thought of the structure of the Iron & Steel Heritage Collection, we knew that labor relations and efforts to make/break the unions made up a significant component of the story of Iron and Steel.  From our perspective, this project wasn’t about creating a comprehensive history of the Iron & Steel industry here, but rather what in the library’s collection aided in the telling of that story?

Inevitably conversations, questions and materials drew us to Homestead, Carnegie Steel, and the Homestead Strike of 1892.  In short, Carnegie Steel wanted to reduce labor costs because the price of steel (per gross ton) had fallen from $35 in 1890 to $22 in 1892.  As General Manager of the Homestead Works, Henry Clay Frick had the authority and support of majority owner Carnegie (in Scotland at the time,) to reduce wages and weaken if not break the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers.  For its part, the union was not going to consent to wage reductions for its members (300 of the 3800 employees.)  After failing to reach a contract agreement through June 28 (the contract expired June 30th,) Frick ordered a partial lockout of union employees, making it a complete lockout on the 29th.  At that point 3000 workers (of the 3800) voted to strike.  The strike lasted less than a month, produced a bloody showdown with Pinkerton Detectives along the

waterfront, resulting in 10 deaths (seven Pinkertons,) numerous wounded, the call-out of the state militia, and culminated (not as a part of the strike, but timed to it) with the attempted assassination of Frick by Alexander Berkman, an anarchist and the lover of fellow anarchist Emma Goldman – neither of whom had anything to do with steel or steel workers.  The failure of the strike resulted in the eventual dissolution of the AAISW.  Homestead steel-workers wouldn’t organize again until 1937.

In addition to material in the the library’s “regular” collection, much of it non-circulating reference, there are several digital gems in the Iron & Steel Heritage Collection too.  Among them several works published in 1893 almost immediately after the strike ended.

 At the same time – very rapidly in relation to today’s world, the US Congress held hearings on Frick’s use of the Pinkertons,  a controversial and not uncommon tactic during the day and age, and published its contents in February, 1893, less than 8 months after the strike began.    This hearing: Employment of Pinkerton detectives*, was produced by the Committee on the Judiciary of the US House of Representatives.  The appeal of this document – a primary source if ever there was one, are the facts laid out as background information, the transcripts of the various testimonies presented .

From P. 2 of the opening testimony at the hearings.

The compensation of the workmen was to be ascertained by arbitrarily fixing the price of 4 by 4 standard Bessemer steel billets at $25 per ton as the minimum, and asliding scale above that according to the fluctuations in price of steel billets. The market price of these at the time the contract was entered into was $26.50 per ton.The wages paid by the firm of Carnegie. Phipps & Co., at Homestead,ranged from 14 cents per hour for unskilled and common labor, or $1.40 per day of ten hours, to about $280 per month, say of twenty-four or twenty-five days of eight hours each, for labor of the highest skill, there being but one man, however, who earned that sum in a single month.

Among the testimony is this exchange (to have been a fly on the wall) between Rep. Charles J. Boatner Dem. Louisiana and Mr. Frick illustrating the tediousness and positions of those involved in the hearings.

Q. Now, then, Mr. Frick, do I understand you as taking this position,  that here in this county, with a population somewhere near half a million people, in the great State of Pennsylvania, you anticipated that you could not obtain protection for your property rights from the local authorities?

A. That had been our experience heretofore.

Q. Well, I am not asking you about your experience heretofore, but about your belief and conviction upon which you acted in this emergency. This was-the reason you sent for Pinkertons—because you believed that the sheriff of this county could not, or would not, give you protection in your lawful rights, and that he either could not or would not obtain as many men in the county of Allegheny as were necessary to protect you?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. That is the condition of things, is it, in the county of Allegheny?

A. I think that has been pretty well demonstrated since that riot on the 6th.

Q. Do you know what became of the arms which were furnished these parties?

A. Only what I have heard.

Q. These men were massed at a town in Ohio?

A. At Ashtabula, where the roads east and west join and come this way.

Q. They were brought down the river and taken up by boat?

A. They were brought to Youngstown and delivered by the Lake Shore road at Youngstown to the Pennsylvania Company’s lines, and by them brought to Bellvue station below Pittsburg on the Fort Wayne road, near Davis Island dam on the Ohio River.

Q. The citizens of this county are generally law abiding citizens, are they not?

A. Yes, sir.

I think any of you should avail yourselves of the opportunity to read and capture  moments in Pittsburg and American History from the participants and actors themselves.

*The investigating committee was officially the: Select Committee to Investigate and Report to the Senate the Facts in Relation to the employment for Private Purposes of Armed Bodies or Men, or Detectives, in Connection with Differences between Workmen and Employers.

– Richard


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Holiday Fun from Uncle Sam

Surprisingly, government documents aren’t the first thing to come to mind when most people think of the holidays.  And yet– government documents librarians in all kinds of libraries are probably thinking just that.  And did you know that CLP is a Federal Depository Library? We’re happy to help you find all kinds of government resources, but here are a few that might get you in the holiday spirit:

President Truman accepting a menorah from David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, in 1951. Photo from the National Archives.

The National Archive’s photo stream on flickr: Of course the National Archives is the go-to place for older images of the holidays, and their flickr collection is a great way to browse through some of their sizeable collection from the comfort of your home (or the library!)  Their holiday set of photos isn’t limited to Christmas pictures; you’ll find photographs, fliers, and other images that relate to many different holidays.  (Added bonus: the collection is listed as having “no known copyright restrictions, which means you can feel free to use the photographs as long as you credit the National Archives.)

Christmas in the Field- Through the Years: This collection of photographs from the U.S. Army’s Center for Military History features images from the holidays during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq/Afganistan War (2004).  Although it’s a relatively small collection, the images are poignant.

American Memory from the Library of Congress: You’ll find lots of holiday images, texts, songs, and films here!  Just search the site for “Christmas (or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate) and you’ll find a list of what’s in this collection.  A few things that caught my eye in this archive were a collection of writings from Minnesota pioneers about ways of celebrating the winter holidays; fiddler Henry Reed playing Christmas songs; and an article from a 1905 edition of the Cleveland Journal titled Holiday Meditations about race issues. 

A poster from the Office of Emergency Management, Office of War Information, 1941-1945. Photo from the National Archives.


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Shouting about Government Documents

Maybe it was my recent trip to DC and tour of the Library of Congress that renewed my love for Government Documents.  I dunno.  But the love is real.  And I have to shout it from the rooftops.

I just have to start by trying to scrub some stigma off of the name.  When you read “Government Document” what comes to mind?  A bunch of loose leaf paper barely bound with metal brads, covered in Courier font with terms politicos and lawyers use to camouflage understandable language?  Well maybe some of them are exactly that, but the government publishes information in so many different formats that only the word “document” can really encompass all of them.  For example, check out this space jigsaw puzzle brought to you by NASA. 

Or this atlas — of galaxies! (While this link implies that the only copy of this is in McKeesport, you really can ask for it at the Main Library. Just use the “SuDoc” call number NAS 1.21:496.)

 There’s also cool stuff (cool to me anyway), like We Deliver: The Story of the US Post Office.

 Or check out this pamphlet on the Underground Railroad published by the US National Park Service, which puts out sweet handbooks on about 150 of our National Parks. (Again, this item really is at the Main Library. SuDoc call number I 29.9/5:156.)

 If you’re a history buff (or conspiracy theorist), you can peruse local history like the Three Mile Island Accident and how the government spun it to the public, to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and to special subcommittees back when it all went down.

Or if you’re an animal lover (like me) and want to learn about Alternatives to Animal Use in Research, Testing, and Education, well, the government wrote about that too. 

Or combine local history and animals and you get the Survey of Pennsylvania Migratory Waterfowl.

 GovDocs are truly some of the wackiest and most useful documents that are published.  You’d be amazed at some of the research this country has spent money on…   or actually maybe you wouldn’t.  Either way you look at it, they are a great resource.  And we pay for ‘em, so why not use ‘em?  Am I right?

Now here’s a little civics lesson.  Every state has one Regional Federal Depository Library, which means that they get a copy of everything the government publishes.  Literally everything.  Congress set this program up back in 1813 so that the American public would be able to freely access government information.  You know, as part of the informed public democracy thing.  Wasn’t that nice?  The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is a Selective Federal Depository Library, which means we don’t get everything, but we do still get a ton.  Mostly the interesting stuff. 

You can also find many government documents online at the Government Printing Office’s website, but if you would like help exploring our collection of GovDocs, Irene is our very own super smart Government Documents Librarian.  You can find her on the Second Floor of the Main Library in our gorgeous Reference Department. 


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Government Documents at CLP

Since 1895, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has offered as much as 58% of all publications printed by the United States Government.   As a member of the Federal Deposity Library Program,  the Library is one of 1200+ conduits for information between local citizenry and the Federal Government .  These materials, along with the professional assistance which collect, distribute, and  maintain them, help safeguard our “right to know.” Unclassified material, whether hearings, rulings, committees, and sundry publications, are available free of charge at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  They are an excellent resource for primary resources about the issues that underlay the structure of our government.

The scope of a Depository Library, in general, encompasses health, law, science, business, education, history and geography with emphasis given to topics that are germane to its particular audience.  For example, in addition to the climatological data found in nearly all Depository Libraries,  CLP’s collection also includes coverage of the city and of  mining, one of several industries that have shaped the culture and history of  this and neighboring areas.  Data provided by the federal Government is available online and /or via  microfiche, journals, pamphlets, and books.


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