Woman Who Broke Barriers at Quaker Oats in the ’40s Turns 100
The 1940s were a very different time in America. In December of 1941, the U.S. joined the Allies in World War II, and according to Census.gov, 16 million young men were sent overseas to fight.
Over that time period, women began entering the workforce in droves, and some took over what were previously considered 'jobs for men.' One of those women was Mabel Hovden (Blomgren), who worked at Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids in 1943.
I worked in the packing department with a women’s job first,
she told KCRG.
After the mass exodus of young men working at Quaker, the company began seeking out women to fill the empty spots.
They put a sign up for anybody wanting to take a man’s job and I signed that.
Following her signature, Mabel was moved to a different, more strenuous position. She said,
It was to mix the vitamins that came in bulk,
KCRG explains: "After measuring and mixing the vitamins, she would then take the solution and spray it onto cereal. All of this while greasing moving parts, and making sure the equipment was working right."
With the change to the vitamin room, her pay increased to 75 cents an hour. The national minimum wage at the time was 30 cents per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Hovden says she was on the job quite a bit:
At first were some 12-hour shifts, and later then they trained another girl.
Sooner rather than later, other women joined her in the vitamin room. During wartime, they kept one another company while their significant others were away. KCRG says they "shot guns, rode horses, had a bowling club, and went swimming in their free time."
Mabel's boyfriend at the time, Lynnferd Hovden, was one of the men who spent time serving. He returned in December of 1945. The pair eventually married, staying together for nearly 50 years and having five children before Lynnferd passed away in 1995.
Mabel turned 100 on February 5 of this year, and it's still a bit of a shock to her:
I just don’t think of me being 100 yet. Just everything goes so fast.
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