The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Created in the fall of 1942, Oak Ridge, Tenn., the secret city--also known as "Site X"--housed the factories where uranium for the first atomic bombs was enriched. Young women traveled from around the country to fill the jobs at Oak Ridge--more than 75,000 at the factories' peak. Denise Kiernan's The Girls of Atomic City is a glimpse into the strange experience of working on a project whose nature was kept from them. Most expected to leave Oak Ridge as soon as the war was won, but many stayed on for decades. Due to the fine supply of handsome young men in uniform, a number of Kiernan's subjects would make families and homes there.

The stories of Jane the statistician, Virginia the chemist, Kattie the janitor and many more--based on interviews with the now elderly women who worked at Site X--are vivid and human in Kiernan's telling. The focus of the book briefly zooms out to cover the dropping of the atomic bomb and Truman's White House during the decision-making process, but then plunges back into Oak Ridge, where women who tested for leaks in pipes and kept tanks clean were rocked by the revelation of their work's ultimate results. Kiernan melds hard science and history with the moving stories of women caught in events bigger than themselves, whose experiences and whose work changed the world irrevocably. The result is a compelling and unusual new perspective on the Manhattan Project and World War II. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

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