Women outside a factory

March is Women’s History Month in the United States.  (International Women’s Day isn’t widely observed here, although that may be changing.)  For the past two years, I’ve tried to pick out a photograph in March which I thought was especially relevant to the theme of women’s history.  In 2018 the focus was on education (Caliopians).  Last year it was on the nursing profession (Montefiore School of Nursing, Class of 1938).  This year’s photograph contains a large group of women wearing a variety of work clothes.  The photo has nothing written on it.  Was the building behind them a factory?  What did they make there?  The photo came to me from Brentwood, California, near San Francisco, but could have originated elsewhere.

There are 35 women in the group.  Many seem to be friends.

Women workers 2

Women workers 3

Women workers 4

Women workers 5

Women workers 6


Happy Women’s Day 2020!

Women workers 7


Post updated March 10, 2020.


49 thoughts on “Women outside a factory

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    1. Thank you, Shayne! The only word I see is “Smoking,” so it was probably “No Smoking.” There’s a small red cross in the window, so there may have been a first aid station there. Those things make sense at a factory. I wish we knew more!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. This is lovely! They feel so close knit, arms around each other, holding hands and smiling. I wonder at what all they lived through beside one another. It’s a beautiful photo to share for March. Thank you 😊🌷

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Yes. So many comments here have mentioned how happy and close-knit they look. It’s a wonderful image, and it makes me very happy just to look at it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The first thing I noticed is that many are smiling and holding hands. Hopefully it was a good place to work and they were treated well. I like the boots. Interesting that some are wearing caps. I especially like the gnomish-style cap. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I wondered that as well. It’s also possible that most of them took their caps off for the photo. I doubt that, though. Would you leave your cap lying around? I don’t think so, I think they’d keep their caps with them.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A hospital or sanatorium, perhaps? With the red cross in one window, and what could be a bed frame in the larger window, and wire-mesh windows that can’t be opened or broken, even over the doors? Odd, too, that the windows in the doors are covered with paper. The pipe coming from the roof into the window on the left is strange; for water? Air? I’m thinking the women could be a mix of nurses, cooks, maids and other staff, as early nurses often wore aprons tied at the waist over their dresses (before uniforms). Just a guess. Intriguing photo!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Interesting thoughts! I wondered about that pipe. We may need to ask an architect. My only idea was that it might have been used for exhaust (smoke or fumes). The wire mesh I figured was to help keep people out. I never considered that it might have kept them in! The paper is also odd…. You’ve given me some new things to think about. Thank you for the great observations!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The young woman on the right in the second photo has a heavily-bandaged finger. I’m guessing she worked with machinery. I’d say some of the other women worked with machines as well, judging from how dirty their coveralls are.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. The item to the left of the foto looks like a boxcar, which would mean that the building has a railway yard/siding. The building itself could belong to a railway company, but many industries had their own access to the railway at that time. The architecture for the building is quite distinctive and, if a railway company, would have been part of a company style and easily identifiable to that company. It all depends on finding somebody who has that kind of knowledge.

    The biggest clue is the sign next to the door. While I agree that it reads “moking”, I disagree that there is an “s” before that. There’s not much space and any letter would have to be quite narrow. Besides, were signs regulating smoking common years ago? But I’m at a blank over what it could say otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmm, I’m also at a loss as to what else the word could be. I do think smoking was regulated in some places, such as factories, not for health reasons but because of the fire danger. Your mention of the architectural style reminded me that I had cropped the photo when I made the featured image at the top of the page. I do that sometimes when it’s just blank space, but I shouldn’t have done it here, because I cropped part of the building. So I’ve now replaced the cropped image with the full photograph. Maybe you’ll see something new? I really appreciate your insights!


  7. In the second picture of the building, it appears the pipe does not extend above the level of the roof, suggesting a drain of some sort. There is also another pipe (drain) running horizontally toward the other side of the building. Would have been interesting if we could see if it somehow was also routed into the building, the runoff water having some purpose in the building. The sheer number of women suggests a labor intensive production line of some sort. Re some being without caps, there is some evidence that some of the women had removed their caps and stuffed them in their pockets. And I note that two of the women (girl with pixie cap and girl to her right. Also girl standing second from right) are wearing jumpers with what appears to be a striped bib and one with stripes around the cuffs, similar to those of an enlisted mans naval uniform common during WW11. Perhaps a fashion copy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not sure about the pipe. I originally put a cropped version of the photo at the top of the post, but replaced that one this morning with an uncropped (whole) image. Your point about the sailor fashion (sailorette?) is a good one. The photo could have been taken during WW1. That might help explain the absence of men. On the other hand, sailor-style fashions may have been common before the war.


  8. First of all, I’m so glad you just posted again. Firefox deleted a bunch of tabs I had open during an update, and I knew I hadn’t found all of them. This was one!

    I think “Brentwood” is the clue. Look at this paragraph I found in a history of East Contra Costa County:

    “Balfour, Guthrie and Company played an important role in Brentwood’s development after it purchased the Los Meganos Rancho in 1910. They built the Brentwood Hotel in 1913 to replace the one destroyed by fire. This structure was a center piece of Brentwood for many, many years. They also planned and installed the first irrigation system, mapped out the town and subdivided farm land advancing agriculture from dry-land grain farming to irrigated alfalfa and dairies.

    In 1922, Balfour, Guthrie planted orchards that added to Brentwood’s reputation as an agricultural mecca. This encouraged other agricultural concerns, including H. P. Garin Company, to seek land for farming in the area. By the end of the 1920s, Balfour, Guthrie had California’s largest dry-yard and packing shed, while H. P. Garin Company was shipping almost 800 railroad carloads of fruits and vegetables all over the United States.”

    There’s your connection to that boxcar, as well as an explanation for so many women in a factory. I suspect they were working in an establishment much like the packers and canneries of the upper midwest, or the fish canneries of the west coast. Their clothing would be appropriate for a setting like that: especially the aprons.The mix of ages makes sense, too, since work of that kind often involved sorting and packing as well as processing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s very interesting, Linda! If the photo was taken in or near Brentwood, it might be possible to find other images of the same building. I’ll see what I can find. The sorting and packing of farm produce makes a lot of sense for this group. Their white hats brought to mind a bakery, but their other clothes didn’t seem appropriate for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Isn’t it just so sad that what this token of companionship photo commemorates is now being broken? Let’s hope we can actually return to this, instead of only experiencing it through wonderful photos like these. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep reading, in the news and on blogs, things like “the world will never be the same after this.” Really? I think in most respects it will be the same, at least eventually … and maybe we won’t take so much for granted, at least for a while….

      Liked by 1 person

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