The Calutron Girls

The Calutron Girls were Tennessee Eastman operators (mostly high school educated women) who were temporarily hired in 1945 by the Y-12 uranium enrichment plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They operated calutrons (using electromagnets to separate uranium isotopes), invented by Ernest Lawrence, so that the Manhattan Project had enough enriched uranium to build the first atomic bombs. The girls were highly efficient but weren’t actually told what they were doing: it was pointed out that these “hillbilly girls” were achieving better rates of production than the scientists and engineers, arguably because the physicists fiddled too much with the controls, while the “girls” were trained “like soldiers” to be efficient and not question what they were doing.