Women in Welding Part II

You’ve seen the iconic fashion of Rosie the Riveter – but did you know that “Rosie”, and the thousands of hard-working real-life women welders like her, had to choose that fashion for safety purposes? Rosie wore jeans and a bandana before women’s jeans were even readily available! In the 1940s, welding supplies weren’t yet customized for women, never mind adequate clothing built to withstand heavy wear and industrial usage.


According to historian Ellison Langford, women like the one pictured on the “We Can Do It!” poster suited up for the welding workplace, facing criticism despite their service for the war effort. Langford quotes a New York Times article which ran with the headline “Training for War Work to Help Women Keep both Health and Looks.”

Some women tried to maintain the hairstyles society expected of them, until a revamped PR campaign highlighted that it was prudent to tie hair back and clip it under a bandana to save it from the grip of heavy machinery. During World War II, thirty thousand women were eventually employed by the Portland shipyard alone. Their now iconic fashion allowed them to safely utilize the best welding equipment of their times.


Nowadays many women in America and across the world have learned the trades of their foremothers, and that includes welding! Kim Moloney is one of these modern day Rosies. She is on the frontline of welding, as her work is to maintain the steel bridges of New York City. A graduate of trade school and a card-carrying member of the Brooklyn Ironworkers local union, Moloney is an expert with all kinds of welding equipment. She worked her way up to being a fully fledged welder by age 30.


Kim reports that while she does face some hints of sexism on the job, such as guys who try to be intrusively helpful, mostly its in the form of them avoiding her as they keep to a boys club. After all, she and her professional cohort make up part of the 2.6% of the construction workforce in America. There are some hopeful signs of welding becoming more open to women these days. One ironworker’s union is actively recruiting women members, and some states are beginning to fund training for tradeswomen and women in the highway construction forces. These steps will go toward helping qualified women join more of the financially rewarding careers available to professional welders. If you’re looking for welding supplies and you live near Atlanta, GA, hop on over to the Sidney Lee Welding Supply store near you.