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Women Producing At National Watch

From American Horologist magazine, March, 1945

Women Producing At National Watch
By Frank Cipolon

Sapphires and rubies of microscopic dimensions pass by the thousands thru the· dexterous, trained fingers of women war workers at the jewel bearing plant of the Elgin National Watch company in Aurora, Ill.

The tiny bearings go into hundreds of instruments of war which call for harder-than-metal jewels to operate between metal friction surfaces. It is estimated that 5,000 jeweled bearings go into a battleship's mechanisms, and more than 100 into the instrument panel of a bomber plane. The bearings also are used in navigation watches, tank clocks, air speed and rate-of-climb indicators, and scores of other devices used by both the army and navy air forces and also in land and sea-based war instruments.

A week's production of diminutive jeweled bearings numbers in the thousands, but the parts are so small that they fill only a case comparable in size to that of a woman's compact.

Many operations are necessary to make each little jewel, and women, who constitute slightly more than 80 per cent of the craftsmen, have a hand in virtually all of them, because feminine deftness is especially suited to the work. They are trained on the job by technicians who received instruction thru the training-within industry program of the war production board.

Among the operations which women perform, most of them under microscopes or magnifying glasses, are cementing, sawing, grinding, polishing, drilling, and inspecting. Several women are supervisors. The nature of the work makes good vision imperative, so employes are required to take sight examinations.

Women at the jewel plant entered war work from many peace-time occupations, and a number came directly from the home when sons, husbands, and brothers entered service. The minimum age of women employes is 16. There is no maximum aze, provided an applicant can pass the sight test.

The jewel plant, the only one of its kind in the middle west, won the Army-Navy "E" recently. 

Forwardlooking executives have planned a post-war industry in which present employes will engage. The company plans to manufacture, for peace-time industrial uses, precision gauges made of synthetic sapphires and rubies, which are said to have 30 times the wearing power of steel gauges.

Women first went to work at the Aurora plant when it opened in February, 1942. Because the jeweled bearings are made for army and navy ordnance, the feminine employes last March formed a: post of the WOW's (women ordnance workers).

The post is No. 13, and its president is Mrs. Merrill Karsten, a member of the staff in the final inspection department. Before entering war work, Mrs. Karsten was a practical nurse in the Springbrook tuberculosis sanitarium, Aurora.


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