Hard work at Oak Ridge

Thousands of civilians—many of them women from across the South—came to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during World War II to work on a secret project. They were offered good wages and promised that their labor could help end the war.

Inspired by Rosie the Riveter, they “left farms for factories willingly, wrote letters hopefully, waited patiently and worked tirelessly,” writes Denise Kiernan in her book The Girls of Atomic City—The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II.

For Kattie Strickland and many of the other women, hard work was nothing new. “Hard work didn’t scare her, that was sure,” Kiernan writes about Strickland.

“She had seen hard. Picking pound after pound of cotton in the afternoon, cooking supper with Mama in the evening, getting up the next day to milk four cows—one cow so feisty she could, as Kattie liked to say, kick the sweetnin’ outta ginger cake….

“Whatever this new place in Tennessee had to dish out, she knew she could handle it.”


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