Comment from Margaret Sondey 2000 Sep 22

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From: Margaret Sondey
Date: 2000 Sep 22
Subj: Shipyard Diary of a Woman Welder

Glad to hear you found her [Augusta H. Clawson's] book!

I actually found the author before she died on 13 May 1997 at her home outside Washington, D.C. A fabulous lady, she welcomed me to stay with her while I researched my dissertation (uncompleted) on a history of welding equipment manufacturers in the United States. I was able to put her in touch with some of the historians in Washington, D.C., and that is how her welding mask came to be in a permanent collection there. A Vassar graduate, she was a delight to know.

I asked Ms. Sondey if she had any good anecdotes from the history of welding equipment manufacturers. She replied:

More than you would ever believe!! I had tons of fun doing research in Washington, DC, as I had to get stuff "de-classified" (fifty years later!) just in order to see it! Most of that stuff was personal correspondence between James F. Lincoln and various naval people. Welding, you see, was used to speed ship production (a la Kaiser) and so was viewed as a real important technology of the time. GE and Westinghouse were the two big corporations involved in welding, but Lincoln Electric was the upstart "single" focus corporation headed by a charismatic man that really helped make welding history. The whole history is fascinating.... the best anecdote comes, actually, from W.W.I when welding was first investigated as a ship building technology. This is one of those wonderful apocryphal stories: J. F. Lincoln was arguing for use of welding in ship construction and the naval powers-that-be argued that they could kick apart any welded piece with their feet. J.F. responded in no uncertain terms that they would have *(&^&*( hurting feet if they even tried! But it took until the next war for welding to become an accepted technology for ship fabrication.

Augusta's role was important as a "spy" because few men were left on the homefront and ships were desperately needed. Women kept being trained as welders, but were then leaving. This was a HUGE problem as ships were DESPERATELY needed. So they recruited her as an undercover "spy" to go into the shipyards and detail what she thought the problems were and why women were leaving. The book is actually a compilation of her reports which were never intended for publication. But, as a well-educated Vassar graduate -- and a woman with a superb sense of humor -- they were so well-written and so persuasive that they fit into another needed commodity -- war-time publications to inspire the home front!

Most of the people within the welding industry were wonderful characters --- and I had the opportunity to meet some of them before they died in the 1980s. Others I only know through their papers -- and some only through what others have written. T. B. Jefferson, Comfort Adams, Niels Miller, E. A. Hobart all have their places in welding history along with C. K. Rickel, and lesser known figures.

I would LOVE to get Augusta's book republished, as few copies exist. A few years ago (ooh... probably ten when I think about it), the Library of Congress had only one copy, as did the Ohio State University. I have one personal copy that I bought off the internet, but since it was only issued in very acidic paper editions, I would love to get an academic press to reprint it before it literally falls to pieces.

Hope this gives you a bit more background,