The Rich History of Women Employees at Chaney Instrument Co.
In case you haven’t heard, 2023 marks 80 years as a business for Chaney Instrument Co. and AcuRite! We are celebrating all year long with special promotions, throwback products, and stories about how Chaney Instrument Co. came to be in 1943. And an essential piece of how we got our start involved women employees! To coincide with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8, this blog will overview Women’s History Month and outline the importance of women at Chaney Instrument Co. and in American history.
Women’s History Month Background
According to the National Women’s History Museum, Women’s History Month began as a weeklong celebration during the week of March 8, 1978, in the community of Santa Rosa, California. The word of this celebration spread across the country, which spurred similar celebrations throughout various communities the following year. In 1980, following successful lobbying for national recognition from the now-National Women’s History Alliance, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation naming March 8, 1980, National Women’s History Week.
After six years of the weeklong event, and to commemorate and encourage the study, observance, and celebration of the role of women in American history, congress passed a public law in 1987 designating March as Women’s History Month. Throughout the month, various organizations and institutions — like the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Smithsonian — hold roundtable discussions, presentations, and events on topics related to honoring the history of women in America.
Every year, the National Women’s History Alliance determines a different theme for Women’s History Month. This year, the same year we are celebrating our 80th anniversary, the theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” The alliance encourages the recognition of women in media, whether it be newspaper, radio, TV, stage, screen, art, or podcasts.
The 2023 theme is especially fitting during our 80th anniversary year, as women make up an overwhelmingly large part of our story as a company.
Vital Role of Women at Chaney Instrument Co.
After World War II started in 1939, the U.S. forces faced an unforeseen challenge: their explosives were detonating early due to impurities in glass components. A U.S. armed forces representative reached out to our eventual founder, John L. Chaney, and asked him to investigate.
As many men left to fight in the war, Chaney recruited and hired many women (one of which was his sister) in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to help him determine the cause of these glass impurities. After successfully assisting the U.S. forces by creating new glass components without impurities, the woman-led Chaney workforce shifted their focus to creating glass tube thermometers for home use. When Chaney founded the Chaney Instrument Co. in 1943, the majority of these women remained on staff throughout the end of the war in 1945 and beyond!
Women in the Workforce During WWII
Of course, Chaney Instrument Co. wasn’t the only company employing droves of women after the U.S. joined the war in 1941. Women were essential in stepping in and doing a plethora of jobs that became vacant after men left for the war. Many of these civilian jobs were previously closed off to them, and with a new sense of patriotism, they showed they could handle them more than adequately.
With encouragement from “Rosie the Riveter,” an estimated six million women joined roles that were previously male dominated. They worked as part of factory production lines, on farms, and in construction. They helped build planes, trains, and ships in large manufacturing plants. And women also jumped into journalism and newsroom roles, reporting on the war efforts. Additionally, upwards of 350,000 women also served in the war, working clerical, nursing, and even non-combat piloting jobs. The overall share of women in the U.S. workforce increased 10%, from 27% to 37%.
Following the war’s end, when men returned home, some women were lucky enough to keep their jobs. Others, unfortunately, were unfairly demoted. These unjust demotions sprouted a new voice and fight for social justice and equality. While working their jobs during the war, women enjoyed and thrived on financial and personal freedom, something they had never experienced before.
These freedoms shouldn’t have ended just because men came back from war, but unfortunately, it was still a challenge for women to get work in jobs that were usually held for men. The historical women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony argued that women had proven their abilities and deserved equal pay for equal work.
Couldn’t Have Done It Without Women
The contributions of women during WWII cannot be understated. Countless workplaces, stores, farms, and companies — Chaney Instrument Co. included — depended on women to keep up operations. And for that, we cannot be more grateful.
That gratitude remains today and is as strong as ever. Chaney Instrument Co. and AcuRite would like to thank all the women who work to make our company maintain the status of being the #1 Weather Station brand in North America. We also want to recognize all other women and wish everyone a happy and education-filled Women’s History Month.
Who are you grateful for this Women’s History Month? What woman in your life is special to you? Share below!