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Women’s Work

Women’s Work


Narrator: Scholar Jackie Peterson elaborates
on African American women’s roles at Hanford. Jackie Peterson: Unfortunately, though, when
most women, African American women in particular, arrived at Hanford, they were pretty much
offered cleaning positions or kitchen positions, very traditional women’s work. One of the elders of the Pasco community in
an oral history interview was talking about how she had actually been trained as a welder
in, I want to say it was somewhere in California. She was living the life. She was earning a paycheck, she had a skill,
like she felt so good about her life and she was very happy to stay there. But her husband was just not satisfied and
he kept hearing about this job in Pasco, this Hanford thing, and kept harping on it. Finally, she gave in and said, “You know
what? Fine. Let’s go out there and see what this is
all about.” But she was confident that she would be able
to get similar work because she had a certificate. She had gone through this training program. She had been earning a good salary. Unfortunately, they got to Hanford, and he
got whatever job, probably a construction job. She showed up and she’s like, “Oh, I have
my certificate. I’m a trained welder.” They’re like, “Well, you can work in the
kitchen or you can clean. Take your pick.” She was flabbergasted and she thought, “How
is it possible that I have a trained skill that clearly you probably need in this project
and you’re turning me down?” The other side of it was most of the people
who were recruited and ended up coming to Hanford were men. So you have a situation where you have a bunch
of men, probably a lot of them were single, and the small population of women. So there was certainly lots of harassment. I heard at one point the security detail at
Hanford had to build a fence around the women’s barracks, and people had to have like written
permission to visit the women’s barracks, because the situation had gotten so out-of-hand.

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