Night-Work in a Munition Factory


December 26, 1916
I APPLIED to-day for a position in a large shell-factory in Toronto, and have been told to report on December 31 at 11.45 P. M. I bought a regulation cap and apron — the former an ugly frilled affair, and the latter a plain, longsleeved overall made of heavy butcher blue cotton; and when I acquire a pair of heavy leather gauntlets, I shall be all ready for the fray.

January 1, 1917
I reported at 11.45 last night, and found that I had to wait with nine other women on a reserve night-shift of twelve hours. Our pay is ten cents an hour, and we sit round and wait until a call comes for a worker. At first I thought it rather amusing, but it soon became tiring, and I hated everybody and everything, especially the particularly uncomfortable chair that I was sitting in.
About 4 o’clock a woman came up and said, ‘You look tired, girlie; come and lie on my cot.’ Part of the restroom was a sleeping place, with rows and rows of cots, and someone sound asleep on each one. I was very thankful for the spare cot, and I spread my scarf over the rather grimy-looking pillow, and lay down thankfully, sleeping until 8 o’clock, in spite of the noises going on around me.
When I got up, I went into the cloakroom, where there are long troughs for the women to wash in. I don’t mean to say that we actually have to get into the troughs, but there are taps at intervals all down them, and there I washed in ice-cold water, with coarse yellow soap, and paper towels that feel as if they were made of sand-paper. There were dozens of tired-looking women, with the dirtiest faces and unspeakably black, filthy aprons. They did n’t look as if they had been particularly thrilled with their night’s work, and seemed glad to get away.
I then went to the other end of the department, to the Y.W.C.A. cafetéria, and got a good hot breakfast — porridge, coffee, bread and butter — for 13 cents. The cafetéria is open day and night, and is run by voluntary workers who work in four-hour shifts.

January 2
Well, I’ve got a ‘job,’ and I can’t say I particularly love it. At 12.15, when I had settled down for my vigil, the matron came up and said, ‘Will anyone volunteer for elevator service?’ I jumped up at once and said, ‘Oh, yes, I’ll go’; and was led ‘off to the slaughter,’ so to speak, by a small messenger girl.
We went into the yard, and across railway tracks and weird places where the earth was steaming, past the forges and blacksmith-shops, with men toiling in the glare of the fires and half hidden by steam. After walking about the distance of a long city block, we came to the shop. The first sight was quite alarming: not only the noise, but the smell and the dreadful lurid look of the whole place. I was taken up to the big freight elevator, which is used for taking shells from one floor to another, and a workman stayed for ten minutes and showed me how to start and stop it.
After a time the forelady came up and said, ‘You can sit down on this box when you are not working; but don’t let the superintendent see you. He does n’t allow any one to sit down.’ I stayed until 8 in the morning, as the elevator-women work on eight-hour shifts, and I was so tired I could hardly see.

January 3
Last night, after I had ‘punched the clock’ in the rest-room at 11.45, I went straight to the shop, and was told that I was not needed on the elevator, but that I am now a reserve-worker, and may be called to go into the shop at any minute.
I was sent to a room on the second floor, and found many women there, some coming off their shifts, some waiting to be called to work, all looking tired and grimy, but fairly cheerful. There is a wooden table, some pegs to hang our coats on, and a few, just a very few, kitchen chairs. I wasn’t lucky enough to get one, and as I was told that I might not be called until 5 or 6 in the morning, I spread my coat on the floor, rolled up my apron as a pillow, and went fast asleep. About ten or fifteen of the women were asleep on the floor, and we certainly did n’t look pretty.
At 4 o’clock one of the foreladies woke me up, and said that the superintendent, Mr. Sheep (I will call him that though it was n’t his name, and he looked like a disagreeable wolf), wanted a woman to go on No. 209 C machine. I put on my apron and gloves, and followed her into a regular inferno of noise and steam and whirring wheels. The shop is about as long as a city block, and two or three hundred feet wide. The second story of the building, where the adjusters are made that close the large end of the shell, reaches only half-way across, and the rest-room is at one end of it.
The shells come into the factory at one end, just roughly shaped pieces of shell, and they leave at the other end finished and ready to be shipped abroad.
A great overhead crane runs up and down continually, with a hideous whistling noise, and the roof seems full of big black whirring wheels and whirling leather belts. On the ground, machines and women are everywhere, all packed close together; and there are men as well, tool-setters, foremen, and laborers who go round sweeping up the steel shavings that are constantly piling up round and under the machines.
The machines, of which there are four of each kind, are in line down the shop, with narrow passages between them where the operator and inspector stand; and between the rows are wooden runways with rollers, down which the big eighty-pound shells are pushed and shoved from one machine to another. I say pushed and shoved, for the rollers don’t roll freely, and when a heavy shell comes along, it takes all one’s strength to get it to move down the line.
I was sent into my place in front of a huge fifteen-feet-long hydraulic machine, and a foreman showed me how to work it. The shells came down the runway behind me, those belonging to my machine being turned sideways and pushed along a short runway to where they were adjusted into place with a huge clamp. Then the overhead lever was pulled to one side and the machine set in motion. I had to turn on a tap from which came a disgusting mixture of soap, grease, and water which ran over the knives as they cut into the steel. It steamed and almost boiled, and every now and then it would splash and would send a spray into my face and over my apron; and the smell was sickening.
A great cutter bored into the shell, and one adjusted the levers so that it would stop at the right time.
After half an hour my foreman said, ‘Well, I guess you can manage alone now,’ and walked away. I felt deathly sick, and more terrified than words could express, at being left alone with this hideous monster, which might blow up at any minute for all I knew. I set my teeth and thought to myself, ‘I must n’t be sick; I must remember what that dreadful man told me about this awful thing’; and somehow or other I remembered and managed to turn out thirty-eight shells in the six hours. We were only supposed to finish thirty-five in that time, so I felt I had been able to hold down my job.
At 10 o’clock my relief came, and then, trembling with exhaustion, I stumbled upstairs to get my coat, and then out into the icy, but clean air.

January 4
I was sent on to a machine this morning at 3 o’clock, but was able to get three hours’ sleep on the draughty floor before I was called. I took a small cushion and a steamer-rug, and was a bit more comfortable than I was the night before.
I went to a new machine, a fearsome thing that cut off the outside steel from the shells. It took two of us to adjust the work into place, and a third woman to paint the nose of the shell with a yellow sticky grease, before the machinery was set in motion. Then the fun began: great long shavings of hot, jagged steel were cut off and banged round within about eighteen inches of our faces. When they got too long, we beat them off with wooden sticks, and they fell to the ground.

January 5
I went on at 4 o’clock this morning, at the machine I first worked, and I was able to turn out fifty shells, so I made 45 cents extra. We are paid 30 cents an hour, and have a bonus of three dollars a week if we are not late, and break no rules; for every shell over thirty-five we turn out we get 3 cents.
There is an inspector for every two machines, and she checks our work and the number we turn out. I also keep an account, and mark up every shell I finish, with chalk on my machine.
The foreman was fairly civil, but I do not think the hours between two and seven in the morning lend themselves to much cheer and sociability. In my hideous blue frilled cap I look as handsome and feel as pleasant as the wolf in the Red Riding Hood story, when he put on the grandmother’s frilled nightcap. My apron is black already, and my cap too, and I shall have to buy a rubber apron to protect my blue one from the compound spray.

January 6
A new machine last night, and not quite so hard to work as the other two. I find that all the operators, inspectors, and foremen drink milk during their working hours. I asked why, and was told it counteracts some poison one breathes or swallows. To-morrow night I shall get a pint of milk and drink it out of the bottle, just as the others do. I don’t want to be poisoned or asphyxiated.

January 7
I thought I was in luck last night, as I was put far down the shop away from the machines, and told to paint a line round the shells. I grinned with delight, and worked away happily and easily for half an hour, when disagreeable Mr. Sheep came up and said to the foreman, ‘Who put this woman here? She is a machine operator.’ I was dragged away from my pleasing pastime, and taken upstairs and given an entirely new machine to work; it is clean, but heavy work.
We make from fifty to sixty adjusters in the six hours; and as one has to pick them off the floor and hold them against the machine while one clamps them on, and they weigh twenty-two pounds each, it is pretty heavy going. Still, I like it better than the dirty work downstairs.

January 8
Joy and gladness! I have a machine of my own, and rather a good one, too, not too elaborate, and one can do very well on piece-work, I’m told. The machines vary a great deal in that respect. My new machine is a roughing bore, and I have such a horrid foreman: his name is Bill, and he looks as if he is dying of consumption. His eyes glare, and his temper is hectic.
My inspector is a tiny woman, who says she is now forty and has worked in a carpet factory since she was sixteen, and finds munition work very pleasant in comparison. Oh, heavens! what can the carpet factory have been like. The girl next me is a little thing, too, about twenty-one, I should judge, very ugly and with a face like a very white pug; she offered me some candy and a biscuit, and I did like her.
I made 85 cents extra to-day, and so far I have had no hospital shells: that is, shells spoilt in the operation, but not too badly to be repaired. We get a fresh card each day when we go to work, and on it a record is kept by our timekeeper and foreman: so many shells turned out; so many hospital shells; so much scrap; so many delays through the operator’s fault, machinery breakdown, or lack of power. These cards are turned in at the office, and from them the pay-sheets are made up. We have four foreladies on the floor and four timekeepers. They dress in khaki coats and rakish khaki-colored caps.

January 10
Bill gets on my nerves. He has an alarming habit of jumping over the shell runway to shriek scoldings in my ear; the noise is so intense that I hear nothing until he is right beside me. If we have to call our fellow-workers’ attention, we throw steel shavings at them (small ones).
I dropped my little gold watch into the pool of greasy compound which is under my machine; but after getting my sleeves wet up to the elbows, I managed to fish it out, covered with grease, but still going strong.
My shift is now from 3 A.M. to 9 A. M. Not nice hours, but one is n’t given any choice. I am told that ‘once on nightshift, always on night-shift.’

January 15
Only two hours’ work last night, as the power went off. I was terribly sleepy and tired, and stood with my head hanging down and my eyes closed. The forelady came by and said, ‘I’m sorry you are tired, but please look alert and bright: Mr. Sheep can’t bear to see anyone looking weary or sitting down to rest.’
While the work is going quickly, I get on all right; but when there is any delay I suffer agonies of sleepiness. I never knew before what horrible physical discomfort it is to keep awake when one is exhausted with lack of sleep, and those four hours seemed an eternity.
At 7 o’clock, when it began to get light, I felt a little better; and although I did n’t look alert, I managed to stand up straight and keep my eyes open.
I certainly wish I had been lucky enough to be on a day-shift, going on at almost any hour except 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the early morning. The day-workers do not find the work half as tiring as we do: they get a good night’s sleep, and the six-hour shift is an unusually short one compared to the hours in other factories.
The inspectors have easy work, with hardly any physical strain, and their pay is excellent, $72 a month; they can also keep fairly clean.
The easier work, such as painting the edges of the shells, for instance, and operating the lighter machines upstairs, is given—and quite fairly, I consider — to the younger or smaller women.
We have all sorts and conditions here: young girls who have never done a day’s work before in their lives; exstenographers; and countless girls who have been in domestic service. I am told that some of the best work of the factory is turned out by what the old hands call ‘society girls.’ I imagine that these girls are of a very good class, who are doing the work as a patriotic duty. Two that I knew of, turned in their pay envelopes to the Red Cross, untouched. The girls who stay for a week and then disappear are girls who come in just because they think it is the fashionable thing to do. There are three of them who go on at six in the morning, and I am always very much entertained when, at night, I see them shedding their lovely fur coats and silk dresses, unlacing their smart white-kid boots, and lying down to sleep on the horrid black blankets attired in wonderful negligées made of pale pink crêpe-de-Chine, trimmed with ribbon roses.

January 16
Another night with very little work. Something had gone wrong with our four machines, and I was able to watch the other women at work.
There is a husky Englishwoman opposite me whose man is in France, and she is working to keep the home together for seven children. I never saw such a hustler. It makes one almost dizzy to see the way she plunges and dives, and pushes and whacks the levers up and down. She told me before we went on duty to-night that she ‘ ’ated the ’Un’; and I think every shell she manipulates is a wordless ‘ ’ymn of ’ate.’
I wish that I could sleep enough in the daytime; if I did, I could stand the night-work better. We have a room in a house where there is a singing teacher and also a violin teacher, so I am beset with noise by day and by night. I generally go to sleep in the street-car on my way home, but one can hardly call it a restful hour.
Many of the women choose to work at night, so that they can look after their children and do their housework by day. No wonder they look worn and weary.
When the shells reach my machine, they are rough and black inside. They come into the factory partially hollowed out. The group of machines that mine belongs to has the third or fourth operation; the group just before ours cuts off the rough ends, and our rough bore scrapes out the first roughness from the inside.
Sometimes the shells come in sticky with snow and sand, as they lie outside piled up on the ground, waiting to be sent up into the factory.
A lot of the women on my shift are regular old factory hands, most of them English, and their language savors very much of Billingsgate; but I find them kind and thoughtful, and very honest about their work. When shells are rather scarce, we take them in turn as they come along the runway to our machines. The women all play fair and never take a shell out of turn, and three or four extra shells are quite a financial consideration to them; it means a loaf of bread, or perhaps half a pound of sausages.
The factory never closes down; we work on Sundays and on all holidays, except Christmas day.

January 17
It has been eight below zero for the last week, and a bitter wind blowing. I go out to the factory about 10.30 P.M. and settle down to sleep on a cot; then, at 2.15, the matron comes, gently shakes my shoulder, and says, ‘Time to get up, dearie.’ Oh, the effort of getting up and putting on my uniform, rubbers, gloves, and cap! I looked in the glass last night and hardly knew my own face, it looked so white and puffy with fatigue. It is a judgment for saying that my kind little fellow-worker looked like a pug, for I certainly am getting to look very much like one myself.
There is a dear soul who goes on at my shift, a clever and charming woman who was a newspaper reporter before working in the factory. She has been on a machine since October 1, and has never missed a day. She looks very delicate, and I think she must hold down her job by sheer pluck and force of will. We go to the cafetéria together, and indulge in soup and two cups of strong black coffee, which help to brace us up for our six hours of strain.
She gets the matron to wake her at 1.45, as she says she has to have a whole hour to compose her brain before going on to her machine.
We have to punch the clock at 2.45, and that gives us time to get over to the shop by three, as we have to be ready waiting at the machine so that there need not be an instant’s delay in the work while the shifts change.
The 3, 4, and 5 o’clock shift women look deadly weary when they come on and almost dead when they go off, but the 6, 7, and 8 o’clock shift women seem less tired; and my own relief, who comes at 9 o’clock, is quite spry and jaunty.
My hands and arms are getting very chapped and ingrained with dirt; the compound soaks through our thick gloves and I wear out a heavy leather pair every week.
A horrid irritating couplet kept running through my head last night. It was something like this, —

When the heart is courageous.
All work’s a delight.

The more I said it, the more doubtful the statement seemed. I long sometimes to lie down on the greasy wet wooden floor and go to sleep.

January 18
When I got in last night, I heard that a girl had been killed that afternoon. A wheel fell from the ceiling onto her neck as she was bending over her machine. It made me feel rather sick, and I hear that several women have left the factory; but it is strange how, when one is at work, one never expects the particular wheel that is over one’s own head to drop.
Never before did I hear such fantastic tales as were going round among the workers; the lurid description of what the foreman did, and how the poor girl looked; every story different, and more horrible than the last.

January 19
A machine-shop is a very unlovely place: the only thing that is bearable to look at is the reflection of a fire outside the windows. It makes a ruddy glow on the glass, and I watch it as being the only relief from the tired, dirty faces, the whirling black machinery, and the heaps of cruel jagged-looking steel shavings that the men load onto wheelbarrows, all dripping with the yellowblack compound.
At 7 the men of the day-shift come in, and I get a below-zero breeze, as the entrance is just opposite to where I stand. It is cold but refreshing after the thick, heavy night air of the shop. At dawn one feels greatly revived. I believe that one’s vitality is at its lowest ebb between 3 o’clock and dawn; mine is, anyway.

January 21
I nearly ‘passed out’ to-day. It was snowing and blowing when I came off duty, and I did n’t see the railway crossing, and heard nothing until some men shouted; then I looked up, to see a freight car nearly on top of me. I jumped back and pushed against it with my hands, and so got clear of it. I was too cold and tired to care at the time; but after I had breakfast, I said a fervent prayer of gratitude that I had not been killed in such a stupid, dull way.

January 23
I am glad I came here to work; it is hard and dirty and exhausting, but it certainly is an eye-opener as to how the workers of the world live. I know now what it means to work in a factory, and shall always have a deep sympathy with factory-hands of any description.
Some months ago I was talking to a Russian, who was saying what a hard time the working classes had. I said in a smug way, ‘Why it must be very nice work in a factory like A——, where things are so clean and the work-people are well cared for.’
‘Mon Dieu!’ he said; ‘picture to yourself, madame, putting a piece of bacon into a can of beans every minute of every hour of every day—week— month — eternity! Ah, the desolation of such work!’

January 30
I had a ‘spat’ with Bill to-day. He bounced over the runway as usual and shrieked out, ‘What-jer get that lever so near the bolt fer?’
I was very irritated, and I shrieked back, ‘Don’t you dare to talk like that to me! You put the chalk-mark where the lever was to go, and it is your own stupid fault if the work is wrong!’
He jumped back and said no more. I shall certainly report him when I get a chance. The other girls often cry when he scolds them, and it is too bad to make us all nervous.

February 1
I am making good money these days, and turning out between ninety and a hundred shells a night. It was nice to get a good fat pay envelope.

February 5
I find that Bill is a returned soldier, who has been gassed, and that is why he looks so ghastly, and is so nervous and cross. Of course, I can’t report him now, and shall try and bear his peculiarities of temperament.
I handle, not only my ninety shells, but about fifty others which have to be pushed down to the next machine; I am getting more used to it now, and send them along at a fairly good rate.

February 12
Great joy! A message has come from a fuse-factory that they want me there next week, as they are opening up the new women’s department. I shall finish my week out here, and then sleep for at least four days before going to the new work.

February 16
I resigned yesterday, and sold my caps and aprons to a new worker. I feel that, if I could be boiled in soapy water for a few hours, I might get some of the black grease out of my system. I am glad to be going to the fuse-factory, for the work will not be so heavy; the pay is small, — only $9.60 a week to begin with, — but it is daytime work, and I shall be able to manage it better.


February 19 I reported at A. & B.’s factory this morning at 7.30. The matron told me that the motto of the factory is ‘Perfection, not Production.’ She said also that the firm intends to make the fuse department a pleasant place for women to work in.
The factory is a five-story building; the basement and first three floors are given up to shell-making, and the fourth and fifth floors to the new fuse department.
I was given my cap and apron, khakicolored this time, and was sent to work a lathe on the first line. The office and inspection-room are at one end of the department; the rest of the floor-space is filled with lathes and drills. There are two lines of lathes: ten of one kind on the first line, and ten of another on the second.
The fuses come to the factory discolored lumps of brass, with only a semblance of the shape they are ultimately to take. The first work is done on the roughing machines, four in number, which are operated by men. The inspecting, lathe-work, and drill-work are to be done by women.
The fuses are mercifully light to handle, after the great eighty-pound shells I have been used to. There is no villainous compound running over the work, which is quite dry and clean.

February 23
The lathe I am operating is a marvelous piece of mechanism: it has seven different tools, and I can see that it will need careful and intelligent handling if the work is to be carried out successfully. We are making time-fuses for the Imperial Government. The measurements are exact to the thousandth part of an inch, and a rigid system of inspection will be enforced to insure ‘perfection’ before the fuses are sent to the government bond house, where they are finally inspected before being shipped ‘over there.’
The fuse department is a new venture, as until a few months ago it was thought that fuse-making was too difficult a piece of work for Canadian firms to handle. Mr. A——, I am told, is a genius where machinery is concerned; and I feel sure that he will be able to meet and overcome the difficulties in fuse-making which have been encountered in the past by other firms.
Only three women came to work the day the department opened, and Mr. A——, the superintendent, and headforeman, instructed us in our new work. Mr. A—— taught me how to handle my lathe, and took the trouble to explain every tool and its use in detail. To be treated with civility and as if one was an intelligent human being I found a pleasant change from the harsh rudeness of the men in the shell-factory.
The inspection-room, which they call the ‘cage,’ is screened off from the rest of the room with wire-netting. A long narrow table runs the full length of the room, and the girls will sit at each side. Each girl will have a different gauge, and will do her part of the inspecting as the fuses are passed down the table. I believe there are to be about fiftytwo inspectors when the work is fully started.

February 24
There is no Sunday work here, and only one daytime shift, from eight to five, with an hour off for lunch; we are on time-work, and make $9.60 a week; but later on we shall be put on piecework, and then it will be possible to make a good deal more.

March 1
I am glad spring is here; it is much pleasanter going to work by daylight. I asked Mr. A—— to-day if he would allow me to set the tools on my lathe. He laughed and said, ‘Yes, certainly; I wish all the women would learn to set their own tools.’ He showed me how to set and adjust the knife-tool; when the machine is hot, it affects the size of the brass, and allowance has to be made for the fuses’ shrinking when they have cooled off. Every day the knife-tool has to be newly adjusted after we have operated the lathe for about half an hour. Now that I know how to alter it myself, it will save a good deal of time.

March 5
Our head-foreman is a big Scotchman, who is Patience Personified. He has twenty complicated lathes under his management, and the women are all inexperienced at the work, and the machines new.
Our second-line lathes look alike, but they have different dispositions — very much like human beings. No. 3 is very sullen; will not behave, for hours at a time. No. 1, which I operate, is highly strung and nervous, but responds readily to kind and reasonable treatment. So it goes all the way down the line, and poor H—— has a peck o’ trouble sometimes, trying to keep workers and lathes on a harmonious footing. He says, ‘Smile and the world smiles with you’; and I believe Mr. A—— has the same sentiments, for both these kindly men are patient and forbearing, and when things go wrong, they quietly set to work to right the difficulty, without any scolding or shouting. We all appreciate their attitude, and try to work intelligently; when we don’t succeed in that, we try to look intelligent, so that they won’t be too much discouraged with their pupils.

March 7
Mr. A—— told me to-day that he wanted a capable inspector to be put in charge of the second line, and would I like the job.
I think I must have looked absolutely aghast, and I said, ‘Oh, no; please, ’please let me keep my lathe.’
He very kindly said I need n’t give up my present work if it meant as much to me as all that.
Operating a lathe is more fascinating and interesting to me than keeping house, or bringing up children, or going to parties, or anything else in the world; now that I am getting to understand the mechanism thoroughly, and the work is going well, I am a blissfully happy woman; the work takes my whole attention, for each fuse has to be watched carefully, and the excitement and joy of turning out perfect work is quite marvelous.

March 8
A very distressing accident happened to-day: one of the lathe-operators caught her hand in the machine, and it was badly cut and bruised. No one knows exactly how it could have happened, as the machine was well protected; but they think that perhaps the ragged edge of her glove got caught. She was wonderfully brave, and did n’t scream or make any fuss, although she suffered terribly. She was taken at once to the hospital, and we have felt miserable all day.
Our matron is an excellent manager of ‘woman-power,’ and has chosen the workers for the different machines in a way that shows she understands, not only the physical, but the mental capabilities of the workers. She is strict, but just, and we can always get a fair hearing when any complaints are to be made.
The stolid strong women are working the heavy milling machines, the younger, more delicate girls do the drill-work, and the tall women, with a good deal of endurance, she thinks best for the lathes. As our foreman says, ‘There are only certain temperaments suited to the lathes’; and I think I know what he means: one must not be stolid, but it does n’t do to get nervous and worried when things go wrong.

March 9
When we got to the factory to-day, we heard that skilled mechanics had been put on our machines. The work is not being turned out fast enough by the women, and a certain contract has to be put through before the end of the month.
I was happy to find that my machine had no operator, so I went straight to work just as if nothing unusual had happened. Mr. A—— and the headforeman laughed, and asked me if I did n’t want a new job. I said, ‘Certainly not, I can work just as well as any man.’ Mr. A—— turned to the foreman and said, ‘Put Mrs. Irvine’s machine in good order, and she can try and beat the men.’
The work went beautifully, and the lathe worked like a charm; no fuses were spoiled, and I am entirely content with life in general, and fuse-factories in particular.

March 10
Such a day! Suck fun! This morning only five of the ‘skilled mechanics’ were operating the lathes; nobody explained their absence and at noon only three were left.
We were told this evening that they had been a bit too skilled and quick, and had spoiled hundreds of the precious fuses by not taking enough care. If the truth were known, I really believe Mr. A—— and the foreman are quite pleased at this turn of events. They have always been tremendously anxious for the women to do well, and I feel sure that only the stern necessity of business made the firm put the men in our places. Still, it is a little bit of a joke, and they quite see, appreciate, and also laugh at it, which I think is very good-natured.

March 12
The women are back in their places, and contentment reigns! I had an interesting day, as I was given the defective fuses, to remedy the mistakes the men had made. It was, fortunately, possible to save a great many of them.

March 15
I want above all things to be a toolsetter, but I believe there is a rule in the union preventing the women from taking up this branch of the work. In the English munition factories they had the same rule when women first began to work; but as time went on, and the men had to leave, the women were found to be excellent tool-setters, and the rule was changed.
Rule or no rule, I set most of the tools on my own lathe, and it saves so much time, that my record is going up for the number of fuses turned out each day.

March 20
I have my munition badge: it is given to any woman who has been employed for a month in a munition factory, and at the end of six months’ work in the same factory, it has a bar attached to it, and becomes the property of the worker. Any woman who has such a badge in her possession when the war ends, will be given a medal by the government.
I set a tool to-day that is the hardest one of all to adjust properly. When I told the foreman, he gave me a whack on my shoulder and said, ‘We’ll have to put you on the Union. You ’re just full of mechanics.’
When I recovered my balances and had caught my breath, I felt very much amused. If I was put on the Union, I might be called the ‘Most High Grand Llama of the Loyal and Ancient Order of the Serrating Tool.’ I wonder if I should be expected to march in the Labor-Day parade, and wear a bluesilk apron trimmed with gold fringe.

March 24
The old woman who is in charge of our rest-room says she will have to leave, as the girls spill so much powder in front of the looking-glass, and it makes her cough to sweep it up. Of course I think women far superior to men! but it makes one smile to see the girls at the noon hour, daubing powder over their grubby faces. If they would only cover up all the dirt, it would n’t look so queer; but they are apt to forget the back of their necks. The effect is both laughable and deplorable.

April 2
The nice head-foreman left to-day. He took umbrage at something the superintendent said, and after a short but heated conversation, picked up his box of tools and walked out. There was great consternation among the lathe-operators, and real regret, as well. H. has always been kind and patient; he rejoiced at our successes and sorrowed over our failures. I shall have no one to call me the ‘stand-by’; no one to have me put ‘on the Union.’ Good-bye to the glory of the LaborDay procession and the blue-silk apron. I have dreamed of riding a white horse on that occasion; but on reflection I find comfort in the thought that white horses only ‘process’ on July 12, so there is one thing I have n’t missed.

April 15
The operator who was injured came back to-day; her hand is healed, but she says that it still hurts when it is touched. She actually had the pluck to go back to the lathe where she was hurt. I call that real bravery. I don’t believe I could have done it.

April 25
I had to operate another lathe to-day while my own was being repaired; I felt as awkward as if I was playing on a strange piano at a church social — all the action queer, and half the notes dumb! The handles are not quite right for me, and I find operating it, is quite a strain.

April 26
My lathe is still out of order, and I worked No. 3 again. I turned out 486 fuses, which beats the record so far; but at five o’clock, when I left my lathe, I felt that I should never operate a machine again. I am very much exhausted to-night.

April 28
The doctor says I have strained my heart; it is too stupid, just when we have gone on piece-work and the machines are working well. I shall have to rest for three weeks.

May 19
Back to the factory again, to my great satisfaction, although I have to go into the cage as an inspector. I sat with my back to the room where the lathes are, for it would be altogether distracting to watch anyone operating No. 1 lathe.

May 23
Of all stupid, dull occupations, inspecting is the worst: it is easy, but monotonous to a degree. I have one gauge which I learned how to handle in two minutes, and I tried 6,000 fuses with it during the day — just the same simple movement six thousand times during eight hours. The morning seems eternity, and by four in the afternoon I have sunk into a state of abysmal despair!

May 25
I was given a position as forewoman to-day. My work will be to supervise the women on the drills. It will be good to be on the ‘fighting deck’ again and out of this ‘ cage.’
The women who are operating the lathes are making from $25 to $30 a week now. I call it the ‘Millionaires’ Row.’ They come to the factory in the very smartest of spring finery.

June 4
My new work is interesting, but it is without the fascination of machinework. I have had to invent a system of keeping an accurate count of the work as it goes from one drill to another; the girls are paid at so much a hundred fuses and they make between $15 and $18 a week.
We have an eight-and-a-half-hour day now, and I find it a long weary day, as I leave home at 6 A.M. and don’t get back till 6 P.M.
A friend who works in the bond house tells me that the A. & B. Company are turning out Al fuses. ‘Hurrah for our side!’

June 27
I was obliged to give up work again, and left the factory yesterday with a very sad heart. My doctor tells me that I must take a long rest this time, and never try factory-work again.
I handed in my badge to the matron with deepest regret, and wished that I could have summoned up courage to ask Mr. A—— if I might keep it. I think the government might give a consolation prize to women who have really broken down in health while operating machines. I shall always be thankful that I tried munition-work, even though I only lasted out for six months. It has been a marvelously worth-while experience.
One hardly likes to talk about ‘doing one’s bit’ when one is being well paid for working, but I feel satisfied and happy with the thought that in putting my heart and soul into the work I was doing something for England. It was an infinitesimal something, but I am grateful that I have had the privilege of being a munition worker, even for such a short time.