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Published: 7/28/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago



Women at work


THE BLADE/TOLEDO TIMES Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Life is funny. What is an innovative story one day may appear almost amusing later, especially when several decades have passed.

Turn back the clock to 1951. The Toledo Times ran a story about women taking jobs that used to be dominantly held by men. This photo was taken by photographer Clarence Bailey on May 28, 1951. It was shot at the Sohio Gas Station at the corner of Dorr and Detroit, where Standard Oil Corporation was training female attendants, including 18-year-old Shirley Wilson of Mason Street, to pump gas and check the oil.

Persuaded by war-induced shortages of help, Standard Oil officials decided to open their six-day training program to women for work at their 23 company-operated stations in Toledo. The story said the girls had to be attractive enough that a driver wouldn’t take “one startled look and change his brand of gas.” But they didn’t want women who were so attractive that motorists “leered at the help as they wheeled in, running down gas pumps.”

The station operators wanted girls who were at least 5 foot, 5 inches tall so they could bend over the fenders of the newer cars to reach the oil dipsticks. Otherwise the girls would need to be willing to stand on a box to check the oil. And it was a requirement that the girls wear slacks. After opening the training program to women, 65 girls applied during the first six weeks, and only 12 were accepted. They were required to take five tests, including an arithmetic test and an intelligence test. The women were also required to convince their bosses that they weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and that they could stand up to a day under a blazing sun on a concrete driveway.

The story stated that the women applied because of the pay and the chance to work outdoors. More than half of the first applicants were blondes, but the story noted it was not clear if that fact was significant.

“We’re not looking for glamour girls or butterflies,” a company spokesman said. “We’re interested first of all in finding girls who can do the job.”

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