From the Collections: World War II’s Women Engineers and the Curtiss-Wright Cadettes

Black and white image of Curtiss-Wright Cadettes welding an airplane wing

Image of Curtiss-Wright Cadettes welding an airplane wing.
(from University Photographs, box 1110, folder 1)

It’s Women’s History Month, and also 75 years after the Curtiss-Wright Engineering Cadettes program held its first courses here on the Iowa State campus. With 100 women enrolled in the aeronautical engineering training program, the courses began on February 15, 1943. What was significant about this program? As a silent training film for the program states, “For the first time doors were opened to women engineers on a large scale.” With a shortage of men being trained in the field of engineering due to World War II, the Curtis-Wright Corporation sponsored an engineering program for women students at several universities, including Iowa State. Taken in 1943 during the first months of the program, pictured here are two cadettes welding parts of the tail from a wrecked plan. Additional online materials documenting the Curtiss-Wright Cadettes at Iowa State can be found in the Women in Science and Engineering Digital Collection. Additional materials on the Curtiss-Wright Cadettes here at Iowa State can be found in the in the Special Collections and University Archives, such as the University Photograph Collection and the Curtiss-Wright Program Records. Papers of individual cadettes are also in the University Archives.