When Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall was in Oak Ridge last week, she met two “Calutron Girls” at the Y-12 National Security Complex.
Peggy Stuart and Ruth Huddleston both came to Y-12 when they were 18 years old. They both were recruited as seniors in high school when someone from Oak Ridge, a place Peggy did not know existed, came to their schools and invited them to join the war effort.
Peggy said: “My friend had worked there and got lonesome for home in Sneedville, Tennessee. When she decided to go back to Oak Ridge, I came with her. They did not hire her because she did not stay when she was there before, but I got a job.”
Ruth was living in Oliver Springs. When the Manhattan Project began, she knew that something big was happening, so she applied for a job and got it. Peggy and Ruth both married and have spent most of their lives in this area.
Peggy later moved to North Carolina, but after a year of farming, she wanted to return to Oak Ridge. She and her husband settled in Oak Ridge, and he spent his entire career working at Y-12. She is proud to be an Oak Ridger. Ruth still lives in Oliver Springs and has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Both these ladies enjoyed their time with the deputy secretary, and she seemed to really appreciate learning how these women, as young 18-year-old girls, felt about going to work. Peggy said, “It was good to earn my own money.”
Y-12 Historian Ray Smith said: “These ‘Calutron Girls,’ who were known as ‘Cubicle Operators’ at the time, are getting fewer and fewer as even 18-year-old girls from the 1940s are now approaching their 90s. We are pleased to enable the DOE deputy secretary, DOE Oak Ridge Office, and National Nuclear Security Administration Program Office leadership to have the opportunity to interact with the real living history these ladies could share with them.”
The Manhattan Project was a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II. Y-12 enriched uranium for the first atomic bomb used in wartime.