DOE recognizes the women who shaped the work of the Manhattan Project, from providing their expertise in explosives chemistry to working on nuclear fission theories to supprting the workforce to testing reactors to designing and building the atomic bomb. In 1939, Albert Einstein wrote President Franklin D. Roosevelt, alerting the President to the importance of research on nuclear chain reactions and the possibility that research might lead to developing powerful bombs. On January 19, 1942, President Roosevelt approved production of the Atomic Bomb and the top-secret Manhattan Project quickly began. View resources on energy.gov/manhattan to get the full history.
Timeline: Women’s contributions to the Manhattan Project
Unfortunately their achievements have often been overshadowed or overlooked, but their contributions have been essential. For instance, the girls of Atomic City worked in secrecy and obscurity on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge National Lab. Their names and contributions might still be unknown today had it not been for the bestseller novel by the same name.
Women played important roles across the Manhattan Project complex. They worked as nurses, teachers, librarians, and secretaries. They sold and processed war bonds, worked the desks at dormitories and post exchanges, welded, and even monitored the control panels of the calutron.
As Kathy Keith at Los Alamos National Laboratory wrote, "In 1943 Manhattan Project leaders J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves scoured the country looking for anyone that would help achieve their goal: to end World War II by building a “gadget” that exploited the newly discovered phenomenon of nuclear fission. They did not discriminate; women or men, young or old, Ph.D. or technical experience—all were considered if they had something to contribute."