Doris Shea Strand: "$65 a Month!"
The manpower shortage that followed America's entrance into the war caused manufacturers and other businesses to rethink their hiring policies. Doors that had been closed to women in peacetime suddenly swung open, and good salaries enticed many women out of traditional roles and into the workplace. Doris Shea Strand, interviewed by Thomas Saylor in 2002, remembered giving up her dream of attending Augsburg College when she was offered a lucrative job at Minneapolis Moline.
DS: I always planned to go to Augsburg [College, in Minneapolis], and I was accepted. I had the necessary credits, but then I got a job. That was sixty-five dollars a month. I could hardly believe all that money. [Laughs] It was at Minneapolis Moline [manufacturer of farm machinery] in Hopkins [suburb of Minneapolis], and I was part of the Canadian accounting department. I enjoyed that.
TS: Office work then.
DS: Yes. Office work.
TS: Keeping books and that sort of thing?
TS: Is that the job that you held until 1944?
TS: So you were working at Minneapolis Moline in December of 1941 when Pearl Harbor [American Naval Base, Hawaii] was attacked [by the Japanese on December 7, 1941]?
TS: Do you remember what you were doing when you first heard that news?
DS: We were out for a Sunday afternoon walk with a bunch of my girlfriends. And we came back to Marion’s home on 40th and Park, and her dad was just amazed and shaken. He said they had bombed Pearl Harbor. At that point I don't think it really registered with us—we were just teenagers. But then he dug out the map and showed us where it was, and said that we were probably in for some rough times. I don't know if it really sunk in, so to speak, at that point.
TS: Do you remember how your own folks reacted when you went home maybe that same day?
DS: I think was everyone was just in a state of shock, disbelief. And what's coming now? It was just a very shaking experience for everybody, I think. It was the uncertainty of wondering, "What's next or what do we do about this?"
TS: At your place of employment (you had been at Minneapolis Moline for a little bit here) did your job or did the atmosphere around Minneapolis Moline change?
DS: Oh, yes. Definitely. Whereas we were a farm implement manufacturing company, we immediately changed over to wartime production. It's always amazed me to think that they could make that change so quickly. Change the dies and the whole production effort. They did very well. The company received the E award for excellence in production. The office people would go over to the production plant. Somebody from the government would present all these things, I think, to instill a sense of urgency and that we were really a part of the effort.
TS: So you felt that sort of sense of being a contributor?
DS: Oh, yes. Right.
TS: What kind of things did Minneapolis Moline produce during the war?
DS: That I'm not sure. I know it was something critical, but I'm just not sure what the effort was.
TS: You were still working at essentially the same job?
DS: My particular corner of the world didn't change that much. I was a part of the Canadian Division, accounting. That I don't think really changed as far as the war effort was concerned.
TS: Did they take on more people during the war?
DS: The company policy changed, whereas prior to the war a married lady could not work. If you got married you were dismissed because they wanted to give the gentlemen the job, because they were supposedly supporting families. But immediately, the war changed everything. It didn't make any difference if you had a family or whatever. The men were off to war and the gals just filled in the blanks.
TS: So they were then happy to have women, married or unmarried?
DS: Right. There were no restrictions at all.
TS: Had it been mostly women working in your office before the war? When you first started, for example?
DS: I would say it was maybe fifty-fifty.
TS: Did that change as the war went on?
DS: Yes. I remember the first fellow from the office got his draft notice. It was just as if the energies were sapped. We just couldn't believe that Irving Watts was going to have to go this Army camp. That was the first one, and from then on it just really—I would say from a fifty-fifty set up, it probably went to about eighty-five, fifteen [85% women, 15% men].
It was mostly women in [December] 1944 when I left there. The gentlemen that were left were more the older men, department heads and that sort of thing. All the young men had either been drafted or volunteered for service.
TS: The women who were there, a lot of them younger women like yourself or a real mix?
DS: I would say most of the women were about my age group, maybe a very few were older. What we used to call spinsters. That was their life, just working. I would say it was mainly the younger gals.
Strand, Doris Shea; Thomas Saylor, Interviewer, Minnesota's Greatest Generation Oral History Project, Thomas Saylor; Minnesota Historical Society Oral History Collection, 2002.