The Girls of atomic city
by Denise Kiernan









The Girls of atomic city
by Denise Kiernan

Alternative Titles
Girls of atomic city: the untold story of the women who helped win World War I

Summary
The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in US history. At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians-many of them young women from small towns across the South-were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war-when Oak Ridge's secret was revealed. Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it-women who are now in their eighties and nineties-The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. Combining the grand-scale human drama of The Worst Hard Time with the intimate biography and often troubling science of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Girls of Atomic City is a lasting and important addition to our country's history.

Genre
NonFiction
    --
Historical
    --
Sociological
    --
Biography

Topics
Women in war
Manhattan Project
Atomic bomb development
Government secrets
Military history
Weapons
Homefront during war
American history

Setting
Oak Ridge, Tennessee -- South (U.S.)
-- United States

Time Period
1940s -- 20th century -- -- World War II (1939-1945)






Introductionp. ix
Principal Cast of Charactersp. xiii
Map-Clinton Engineer Works, Tennessee, 1943-1945p. xviii
  Revelation, August 1945p. 1
1Everything Will be Taken Care of: Train to Nowhere, August 1943p. 3
  Tubealloy: The Bohemian Grove to the Appalachian Hills, September 1942p. 15
2Peaches and Pearls: The Taking of Site X, Fall 1942p. 20
  Tubealloy: Ida and the Atom, 1934p. 32
3Through the Gates: Clinton Engineer Works, Fall 1943p. 35
  Tubealloy: Lise and Fission, 1938p. 57
4Bull Pens and Creeps: The Project's Welcome for New Employeesp. 63
  Tubealloy: Leona and Success in Chicago, December 1942p. 75
5Only Temporary: Spring into Summer, 1944p. 81
  Tubealloy: The Quest for Productp. 99
6To Workp. 109
  Tubealloy: The Couriersp. 131
7Rhythms of Lifep. 133
  Tubealloy: Security, Censorship, and the Pressp. 151
8The One About the Fireflies ...p. 156
  Tubealloy: Pumpkins, Spies, and Chicken Soup, Fall 1944p. 172
9The Unspoken: Sweethearts and Secretsp. 176
  Tubealloy: Combining Efforts in the New Yearp. 191
10Curiosity and Silencep. 193
  Tubealloy: The Project's Crucial Springp. 205
11Innocence Lostp. 209
  Tubealloy: Hope and the Haberdasher, April-May 1945p. 223
12Sand Jumps in the Desert, July 1945p. 232
13The Gadget Revealedp. 249
14Dawn of a Thousand Sunsp. 269
15Life in the New Agep. 286
Epiloguep. 311
Notesp. 317
Acknowledgmentsp. 349
Indexp. 353
About the Authorp. 373




The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in US history. At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians-many of them young women from small towns across the South-were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war-when Oak Ridge's secret was revealed. Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it-women who are now in their eighties and nineties-The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. Combining the grand-scale human drama of The Worst Hard Time with the intimate biography and often troubling science of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Girls of Atomic City is a lasting and important addition to our country's history.





Kiernan (Signing Their Lives Away) writes compellingly of the women who toiled in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. Living and working with thousands of others in a secret city built almost overnight, those involved in the "Project" were unaware that they were contributing to the most revolutionary scientific discovery of the 20th century. Moving between the individual narratives of the women workers and the story of the development of atomic fusion, Kiernan emphasizes the secretive nature of the work yet gives readers a greater understanding of the larger historical context. The endnotes provide comprehensive information about primary sources consulted as well as oral interviews Kiernan undertook with surviving workers. However, no complete bibliography is included. VERDICT This work complements Russell Olwell's At Work in the Atomic City: A Labor and Social History of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Kiernan capably captures the spirit of women's wartime opportunities and their sacrifices in what is ultimately a captivating narrative. Recommended reading for popular history fans.-Kathryn Wells, Fitchburg State Univ. Lib., MA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.





During WWII, Oak Ridge, Tenn., was one unlikely epicenter of the Manhattan Project, the top secret program that produced the atomic bomb. Selected in 1942 for its remoteness, the area, "a big war site" hiring at top dollar, immediately boomed; from across the U.S., tens of thousands of workers streamed in-many of them women looking to broaden their horizons and fatten their purses. Fully integrated into the system, women worked every job, from courier to chemist. They found an "instant community" with "no history," but also "a secret city... [and] a project whose objective was largely kept from them." Living conditions were Spartan-urine samples and guards were intrusive constants-but the women lived their lives. Kiernan's (Signing Their Lives Away) interviewees describe falling in love and smuggling in liquor in tampon boxes. But like everyone else, those lives were disrupted by news of Hiroshima. "Now you know what we've been doing all this time," said one of the scientists. Many moved on; others stayed-Atomic City had become home. But for the women of Oak Ridge, "a strange mix of... pride and guilt and joy and shame" endured. This intimate and revealing glimpse into one of the most important scientific developments in history will appeal to a broad audience. 16-page b&w insert. Agent: Yfat Reiss Gendell, Foundry Literary + Media. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.





Atomic-bomb history includes works about the communities of workers attached to the main installations where the first nuclear weapon was built. Kiernan's contribution covers Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site of enormous factories built to separate uranium isotopes. A type of oral history, Kiernan's account derives from her intensive interviews with 10 women who, in their youth, labored in a range of occupations at Oak Ridge, from janitor to machine operator to secretary to engineer. With surrounding scaffolding of the scientific fundamentals and the 1942-45 technical development of the bomb, the narrative runs as a collection of individuals' life stories that recall circumstances of recruitment and the spartan conditions at Oak Ridge, on and off the job. Some commonalities of experience include the secrecy in which the women worked and the discrimination they endured (racial segregation in the case of the janitor; sexism in the cases of white women workers). Kiernan snugly fits original research into the creation story of Oak Ridge and should engage readers interested in both women's history and the background of the atomic bomb.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist






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