COBWEB CORNERS: WWI: Women filling menís jobs

By Mel McFarland

       During World War II, it was common for women to take men's jobs. I found a story where women did men's work right here, but it was World War I! The Golden Cycle Mill experimented with using women at the Colorado City mill in 1917.
       The mill pointed out that it was not going to replace the entire staff with women, but was using them to replace men who were off fighting for their country. The mill was in a bit of a situation. It was almost closed, as the government saw it as non-essential for the war effort. It took extreme efforts to keep it, and the railroad to Cripple Creek open. One of the by-products from the gold was zinc, which was important in the war effort.
       At the start, 11 women were hired at the mill, with 9 remaining after 2 found other work. The managers of the mill were quite enthusiastic about the changes, saying the women learned much faster than many of the young men they employed. They also earned the same salary.
       There appeared to be no problems with the men and the women working alongside each other. Clad in khaki overalls and caps, they could be found in the noisiest and dirtiest departments as well as cleaner laboratories.
       They displayed without exception, a pride in the fact that they were doing the work of some man who had gone off to war, thus giving a job to help win the war. Misses Sadie Hutton and Edna Sikes had come from Florence and had been working at the Union Printers Home. Miss Gertude Cochrane had come from La Junta and was working in the dirtiest spot in the mill! Others in the mill were working at home or in other jobs more commonly seen as tasks for "ladies."
       I do not know how long this arrangement lasted, but I assume that once the war was over, the mill was all men again. My father worked in the mill after World War II, and several of my uncles had jobs there too. It is interesting to read how World War I affected Colorado Springs, even after it was over. The changes the next war brought can still be seen all around us today.