Historic Brookley Field

From Private Field to Industrial Center

Expanding Wartime Employment

The expanding war effort at Brookley Field saw employment on the installation eventually reach over 16,000 personnel. While initially, labor on the base was primarily made up of males, female labor grew drastically as the war went on. At first, female labor on Brookley assumed clerical roles or the occasional Women’s Defense Organization worker, but that quickly changed. Major efforts by the War Manpower Commission, Federal Employment Service, and local leaders sought to convince women to work outside of the home, with one nationwide goal being 75% of all women employed in these positions feeding the war effort. Naturally, the payment provided by vital defense industry positions proved to be an effective incentive that enticed women who had never held a job or those who were working in lower-paying fields. Eventually, women flocked to industry in Mobile and took up positions at Brookley Field and the nearby shipyards.[1]

The need for labor during World War 2 saw women holding one-quarter of all defense-related jobs in Alabama, though some were still in clerical positions. Brookley Field saw an even greater proportion of women workers, with nearly half of its workers being women in 1944. The demand for workers at Brookley Field also saw positions gradually opening up for people with disabilities. Soon hearing and vision impairments no longer proved to be an imdediment for employment seekers at the base and the doors also began to open for those with artificial limbs or others seeking vocational rehabilitation. However, while the war provided great opportunity for laborers in the homefront, its end would see those opportunities shutter. In 1945, even before the war ended, the certainty of victory saw layoffs begin, primarily centered on those who were not a common sight in the workforce in 1941, such as women and those with disabilities. With the war’s end, the demographics in the industrial workplace returned to the normalcy that some clearly desired, and the amount of women workers at Brookley returned to prewar numbers.[2]

[1] “Women’s Defense Officers At Work,” Fairhope Courier, October 16, 1941, Page 1; “Civil Service Examination,” The Southern Democrat, January 14, 1943, Page 1; Allen Cronenberg, “Mobile and World War II, 1940-1945,” in Mobile: The New History of Alabama’s First City, ed. Michael V. R. Thomason, (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2001) P.221-222

[2] “Federal Jobs Open,” The Birmingham Post, April 19, 1944, Page 12; Allen Cronenberg, “Mobile and World War II, 1940-1945,” in Mobile: The New History of Alabama’s First City, ed. Michael V. R. Thomason, (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2001) P.222-223