web site hit counter The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

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

Availability: Ready to download

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more elec The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men!But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there—work they didn’t fully understand at the time—are still being felt today. In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan traces the astonishing story of these unsung WWII workers through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is history and science made fresh and vibrant—a beautifully told, deeply researched story that unfolds in a suspenseful and exciting way.


Compare

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more elec The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men!But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there—work they didn’t fully understand at the time—are still being felt today. In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan traces the astonishing story of these unsung WWII workers through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is history and science made fresh and vibrant—a beautifully told, deeply researched story that unfolds in a suspenseful and exciting way.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Hunter

    This is the story of women who went to work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during WW2. I liked the subject, I thought it was interesting. But these women's stories were told in a bare bones sort of way. I never felt like I got to know any of them. I certainly didn't get invested in anyone's story. Each person's story is spread over the whole book and elements pop up without much of a connection to other parts. Keeping track of the main people was not straight forward as some showed up once and then wer This is the story of women who went to work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during WW2. I liked the subject, I thought it was interesting. But these women's stories were told in a bare bones sort of way. I never felt like I got to know any of them. I certainly didn't get invested in anyone's story. Each person's story is spread over the whole book and elements pop up without much of a connection to other parts. Keeping track of the main people was not straight forward as some showed up once and then were gone making you wonder why they were mentioned in the first place or if they were going to pop up again in the narrative somewhere. I found the use of "the General, the Scientist, the Engineer and Tubealloy" very annoying after the 100th time. I understand "Tubealloy" but what was the point of the rest? To show how abstract they were and so far removed from the women of the book? I don't know but found it distracting from the story. The subject was good, the writing okay but the organization was poor.

  2. 5 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    If you read my reviews (and thanks if you do) you know that I virtually NEVER give a book 5 stars. Few books deserve it.But I am breaking my own rule on this one. Most of the adult non-fiction I have read in recent years has been pretentious, badly written, and highly overrated by reviewers. But this book is outstanding. From the first page, it reads like a well written novel--only it tells a true story. It's the story of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a city created by the government to develop the atomi If you read my reviews (and thanks if you do) you know that I virtually NEVER give a book 5 stars. Few books deserve it.But I am breaking my own rule on this one. Most of the adult non-fiction I have read in recent years has been pretentious, badly written, and highly overrated by reviewers. But this book is outstanding. From the first page, it reads like a well written novel--only it tells a true story. It's the story of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a city created by the government to develop the atomic bomb program. Thousands of men and women come to live and work in Oak Ridge from all over the country, but only a few actually have any sort of idea of what their work is about. It is not until the first atomic bomb is dropped on Japan that the secret comes out--security is that fierce. Kiernan tells this story from the viewpoints of a number of the women of Oak Ridge, ranging from scientists given the "little woman" treatment, to a local girl who discovers her Yankee boss finds her accent amusing, and shows her off to other officers for that reason, to an African American janitor who is forced to live under demeaning Jim Crow conditions (she is not allowed to live with her husband and can't bring her children to the complex), but finds ways to keep her dignity intact. Their voices, drawn from many interviews with these women, ring true, and this is one book where the end notes are well worth reading, as the author gives more detailed information from those interviews and other background information. This is non-fiction as it should be written, and I hope that Kiernan finds another topic to present in such excellent style.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Five stars for subject matter, three for execution. I'm always happy to read histories that focus on women, typically left out of war narratives. Add to that the fact that my grandmother was one of the "girls" of Atomic City, and you can see I was eager to read this book. My mother has said that the only thing my grandmother ever said on the subject was that everyone dated a lot during their time in Oak Ridge. The subject matter was fascinating, but unfortunately I keep getting caught up by sent Five stars for subject matter, three for execution. I'm always happy to read histories that focus on women, typically left out of war narratives. Add to that the fact that my grandmother was one of the "girls" of Atomic City, and you can see I was eager to read this book. My mother has said that the only thing my grandmother ever said on the subject was that everyone dated a lot during their time in Oak Ridge. The subject matter was fascinating, but unfortunately I keep getting caught up by sentences I don't like. "The effusively outgoing 18-year-old brunette was on line for the shower..." "A sudden knock came at the door." (most knocks are sudden to the person on the inside) "She missed her mama, though. A good ol' plump woman with a welcoming lap no matter your age, a soft bosomy shelf that held the answer to any crisis, a pillow for your troubles." "Virginia Spivey was stuck in limbo, the kind that existed for those lacking appropriate paperwork - and in triplicate. If there were a penance designed specifically for the shy-yet-spunky, 21-year-old woman, it came in the form of a daily challenge to devise something of value to teach the other fidgety individuals who were stuck with her in a place called the 'bull pen.'" "Willie had to physically carry her to the bathroom." (HOW ELSE WOULD HE CARRY HER? WITH HIS MIND?) I would also have liked to read more about the aftermath, and specifically: what is the cancer incidence for those who worked on site? The book seems more concerned with wrapping up their stories with marriages and new jobs. One absolutely fascinating side story was told about an otherwise healthy man who was brought to the hospital at Oak Ridge after a car accident in the vicinity. Rather than setting his broken leg, they injected him with radioactive isotopes (without his permission) and removed fifteen of his teeth, keeping him in the hospital for weeks. His story is wrapped up in a couple of lines because it doesn't fully keep with the "girls" narrative, but probably merits a book of its own if there hasn't been one already. I'm glad the author took the time to research this worthwhile subject.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katie B

    Incredible story of how tens of thousands of ordinary American citizens worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and helped build the atomic bomb. Each person knew how to do their job but did not know the purpose of their individual tasks other than it was part of the war effort. When the bombings occurred in Japan, they were just as surprised as the rest of the world. It was probably the best kept secret in American history. The book features the stories of some of the women who worked in various capacit Incredible story of how tens of thousands of ordinary American citizens worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and helped build the atomic bomb. Each person knew how to do their job but did not know the purpose of their individual tasks other than it was part of the war effort. When the bombings occurred in Japan, they were just as surprised as the rest of the world. It was probably the best kept secret in American history. The book features the stories of some of the women who worked in various capacities at Oak Ridge including a chemist, nurse, secretaries, mathematician, and a janitorial service worker. Also included is the backstory on how the bomb was developed including the role of several women scientists who really have never received their fair share of credit. While the history is utterly fascinating, the writing is just average. It did get a little frustrating having to keep flipping back and forth between the page listing the cast of characters and the actual writing because it was hard to keep track of everyone. However, I am glad the author included the stories of so many women because they played such an important role in the effort to end the war. This book was full of random tidbits of information such as married black couples were not allowed to live together and their housing units were of much lesser quality than white workers. As I stated before, workers didn't know the reasons they were performing certain tasks like checking gauges and examining pipes, and for some it really took a toll on their mental state as it felt like you didn't have a purpose other than doing something that felt meaningless. After the bombings occurred, many workers had mixed feelings. There was a feeling of relief the war was over, but also sadness at the utter destruction and lives lost. This is a part of history that is definitely well worth reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Started with a picture that sparked Kiernan's curiosity and resulted in this wonderful book. Oak Ridge, TN managed to build a complex that employed 75,000 people, all sworn to secrecy. Loved the narrative style of this book and that the book centered on the young woman who worked there as well as staff and others employed in this huge complex. The bravery of these young women, who left their homes, not able to tell their families nor friends where they were going or what they were doing, especia Started with a picture that sparked Kiernan's curiosity and resulted in this wonderful book. Oak Ridge, TN managed to build a complex that employed 75,000 people, all sworn to secrecy. Loved the narrative style of this book and that the book centered on the young woman who worked there as well as staff and others employed in this huge complex. The bravery of these young women, who left their homes, not able to tell their families nor friends where they were going or what they were doing, especially during this time period boggles my mind. It also touches on the race issues that existed even in this complex and the many people who disappeared from there and were never heard from again. Great read on a time and place that few have heard of.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    My father was a pathologist, with an interest in oncology. He was a pioneer in the work towards a cure for leukemia, and his quest took him on many unique journeys. He had this idea that you could inject an isotope into an infected guinea pig, and be able to read the path of the disease in the animal's body. He worked for the National Institutes of Health, and it was his resources there that allowed him to drive the family station wagon out to this place in Tennessee, and pick up a substance to My father was a pathologist, with an interest in oncology. He was a pioneer in the work towards a cure for leukemia, and his quest took him on many unique journeys. He had this idea that you could inject an isotope into an infected guinea pig, and be able to read the path of the disease in the animal's body. He worked for the National Institutes of Health, and it was his resources there that allowed him to drive the family station wagon out to this place in Tennessee, and pick up a substance to help in the refining of his idea. Whatever it was that he picked up, was in a lead-lined box, and we kids weren't allowed near the box, or the car, when he got home. I remember him washing the car, inside and out, to "make it safe" for the family to ride in again. (I remember, because it was the only time I saw him ever wash the car. It was something relegated to his sons and daughter to do.) Daddy took the box to his lab and went on with his experiments. His career was illustrious, and his work brought him a nomination for the Nobel prize (he found out after the fact) and was the basis for other people to win the prize itself (which was a sore point for him.) The box hung around the lab, then came to our home where it was used as a door stop for years. The base has been lost, but we actually still have the lid, and some weights used to help keep the top secure on the car ride between Tennessee and Maryland. (My husband says that early exposure to radioactive material explains a lot about my family. I just glare at him.) Maybe it was my childhood awareness of Oak Ridge, maybe it was my love of history, but I had put this book on my reading list. A friend sent it on to me (thank you Nancy!) when she saw I was interested in it. Such a fascinating collection of people, in a fascinating time and place. All were very ordinary, and very extraordinary at the same time. The secrecy surrounding the project, some of the rules and regulations, and the level of detail thought through in some areas (while totally ignored in others, such as what to do with the mud at the site, to allow people to get about) was fascinating. It did take me a little bit to keep the various people and their story lines straight (for though this is non-fiction, there are times when it really doesn't read as such.) I found this a thoughtful and though-provoking look at history, and the women, from janitor to scientist, who helped build the atomic bomb. They did, indeed, change the world.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Update: Kindle $1.99 special today. It’s a remarkable fascinating story!!!! Wow... Once I really sat down and read the last 70 percent of this book, (on Kindle), in almost one sitting (on a couple of sittings), I couldn't put it down! The 'details' from the Decision Makers (Scientists, Engineers), in this book no longer scared me. (or feed into "I won't understand"). This story was FASCINATING. (I knew nothing about this topic prior to reading this book). The most ambitious War Project in Military Update: Kindle $1.99 special today. It’s a remarkable fascinating story!!!! Wow... Once I really sat down and read the last 70 percent of this book, (on Kindle), in almost one sitting (on a couple of sittings), I couldn't put it down! The 'details' from the Decision Makers (Scientists, Engineers), in this book no longer scared me. (or feed into "I won't understand"). This story was FASCINATING. (I knew nothing about this topic prior to reading this book). The most ambitious War Project in Military History rested squarely on the shoulders on tens and thousands of ordinary people. Many of them young woman. The Clinton Engineer Works (CEW) was a tightly controlled social experiment....yet, the military didn't account for the women's impact on the community. "A Sense of Permanence". The Oak Ridge Woman created their 'HOME'. (they had babies, wanted to cook, decorate their homes, date, go to dances). Some stayed single, others got married at Oak Ridge within the community. Many sacrifices were made for families and individuals in the effort to end the war ---losses of lives, land, and a community that resulted from the Manhattan Project. The question remains: Did the Project justify the means? Patriotism played a role in every day life during World War 11 --but would Americans today be willing or able to make the same sacrifices? --including top-secret jobs, deployment overseas, rationed goods, and strict censorship that families of that era made. The woman in this story are wonderful, (several still alive today), Ya gotta wonder -- when these woman occupied a wide variety of roles at Oak Ridge during the 'Secret Project' ---(living in a 'man-made-secret-community)-- told not to ask questions -- but did jobs such as work with blowtorches --did these woman (the workers) receive as much credit as the leaders did? I hope they make this book into a movie! I'll go see it!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    I made myself finish this wretched book. There are some things through the end that were interesting, but the author took a fascinating story and made it impossible for me to get into. The editor did this author a grave disservice by giving this version of the book the green light. Horribly difficult to follow and I didn't care about anybody because I couldn't keep track of who was who. Wretched. Wretched book. Skip it. I don't know how this book has become bad big as it has. I can't say enough I made myself finish this wretched book. There are some things through the end that were interesting, but the author took a fascinating story and made it impossible for me to get into. The editor did this author a grave disservice by giving this version of the book the green light. Horribly difficult to follow and I didn't care about anybody because I couldn't keep track of who was who. Wretched. Wretched book. Skip it. I don't know how this book has become bad big as it has. I can't say enough about the editing - if the story would have been structured. Differently, it may have read differently because the actual descriptions, etc aren't half bad. Maybe she will rewrite it, because the subject material is very fascinating the book sadly was the opposite.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I've been wanting to try this author for a while, because I've also noticed her more recent book on the Biltmore Estate, The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home, which I will also plan to read. I don't read a lot of history but she made it go down easy by alternating between chapters on the backstory of the technology leading to the actual applications of atomic energy, and chapters about the characters, largely women, moving to Oak Ridge I've been wanting to try this author for a while, because I've also noticed her more recent book on the Biltmore Estate, The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home, which I will also plan to read. I don't read a lot of history but she made it go down easy by alternating between chapters on the backstory of the technology leading to the actual applications of atomic energy, and chapters about the characters, largely women, moving to Oak Ridge for mysterious jobs during World War II. I remember reading a book on Nagasaki last year where it talked about how Americans didn't see images from Hiroshima until the 1950s when Life Magazine published some. But that didn't mean they didn't hear reports of those bombs, the bombs built by pieces manufactured at Oak Ridge, right after they were used. So many people worked at Oak Ridge not really knowing what they were contributing to. Maybe I'm not enough of a patriot, but I found it pretty upsetting actually. Also upsetting - the stories of nonconsensual medical testing on some of the African Americans working at the camp, including plutonium injections and tooth removal. But it is amazing to read about the building of this energy city that didn't officially exist during the war, how fast the process moved to creating the elements of these bombs, how much science (and war technology) moved forward during this time. And it was nice to see women involved in the process, from the scientist forced out of Berlin and then Vienna who made all the connections between some of the ideas and allowing fusion to be a reality instead of a theory to the women with PhDs in physics being employed in their areas of expertise. Still others had to stop working as soon as they married, and the women were policed by guards at the dorms within Oak Ridge. A very interesting, muddy time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I liked this book a lot, so four stars. It is interesting, well told and easy to follow. Although filled with facts it is never dry or boring. The scientific details are well explained so any lay person can understand. It is about the creation of Oak Ridge, Tennessee - a city created to produce the first atomic bombs' fuel source. This book not only follows the historical facts surrounding the creation of this fuel source but also the creation of the city where the people employed to do the firs I liked this book a lot, so four stars. It is interesting, well told and easy to follow. Although filled with facts it is never dry or boring. The scientific details are well explained so any lay person can understand. It is about the creation of Oak Ridge, Tennessee - a city created to produce the first atomic bombs' fuel source. This book not only follows the historical facts surrounding the creation of this fuel source but also the creation of the city where the people employed to do the first enriching of uranium worked. It is really quite fascinating. This is a great book to read along with: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon Einstein: His Life and Universe Truman The “secrecy of the town’s very existence” is depicted through the people that lived there. Suspense is further increased as the author switches between different topics. The extent to which one's mouth had to be clamped shut is exemplified. You are not just told but shown. It is hard to really imagine. It makes complete sense that unmarried girls were central to the town’s work force; why this was so becomes clear when you read the book. There were however many men there too. I wish the author had also spoken of them. There were plenty of jobs for men too. We are told that 75 000 people came to live there at its peak. I wish the author had specified how many were women ad how many men. I wanted that figure. Although the title does clearly point out the importance of women I would have preferred a book that discussed the men too; their role was vital too. In the name of equality, not just one side of the story should have been told. This is my biggest complaint with the book. I liked how the story of the Oak Ridge was described from its beginning, through the war and AFTER the war too. Our view of the atomic bomb and atomic energy during the war and AFTER is discussed. This too is well done and gives a more rounded perspective. How the residents of the city saw themselves while working "to win the war" and afterwards when they discovered what their role really had been was honest - a mix of both pride and shame. The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Cassandra Campbell. She is very popular with many, but my experience with earlier audiobooks was less favorable. Kiernan, with her particular choice of words sometimes wanted to get across and implied meaning and this came across loud and clear through Campbell’s reading. Bravo! Campbell also well captured both feminine Southern Appalachian dialects and official government documents. The narration was very well done!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    Overall a pretty good, informative, and entertaining book about a part of American history that is pretty much all but forgotten... and unknown. The book is more a series of short stories from different women that are somewhat interwoven together over their tenure in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Like a lot of short stories, you fail to really connect with any of the characters other than just finding out random bits of information that compose their daily lives over their interesting and puzzling pasts. Overall a pretty good, informative, and entertaining book about a part of American history that is pretty much all but forgotten... and unknown. The book is more a series of short stories from different women that are somewhat interwoven together over their tenure in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Like a lot of short stories, you fail to really connect with any of the characters other than just finding out random bits of information that compose their daily lives over their interesting and puzzling pasts. Add in random scientific information at the end of most chapters, and you begin to feel that the author had a difficult time finding the right structure to deliver all of her research. By not wanting to leave anything out, you are left with somewhat of a splattering of information gathered from interviews and other sources. The book is well written, it's not dry or anything like a lot of history, but it lacks the professional polish that other historians are able to achieve. Reminded me of when you cook something for dinner only to realize with the final taste test that you're missing an ingredient, but you're just not sure which one.

  12. 4 out of 5

    ALLEN

    This is an amazing book containing fascinating and informative history, and it reads like a dream. The focus is on a handful of young women of varying skills from various walks of life and various regions who converged on Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a sheltered valley west of Knoxville commandeered by the Army during World War Two and devoted solely to the production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium for use in the brand-new atom bombs. Life in this built-from-scratch, super-secret place was neve This is an amazing book containing fascinating and informative history, and it reads like a dream. The focus is on a handful of young women of varying skills from various walks of life and various regions who converged on Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a sheltered valley west of Knoxville commandeered by the Army during World War Two and devoted solely to the production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium for use in the brand-new atom bombs. Life in this built-from-scratch, super-secret place was never easy. Just as in any other American town of the era, citizens had to queue up to buy movie tickets, meat from the butchers, or Ivory soap flakes at the local A&P. And there were never any proper sidewalks, just wooden planks and mud. Employees from outside the valley had to check in and out of Oak Ridge with armed military guards, and those who lived in town had to contend with jerry-built "cemesto" (CEMEnt + asbeSTOs) housing, especially the African-American workers who always seemed to wind up with the poorest-quality digs in town. At work, the biggest no-no of all was to ask what the whole project was about, anyway. However, socialization was possible, even easy: dances and special-interest clubs abounded, and many of the women of Oak Ridge met and married soldier boys while at the town. In fact, a non-denominational chapel was built to accommodate the myriad worship services that served such a diverse community, which went on to host numerous weddings. Author Denise Kiernan is to be commended not only for her extensive research but her good clear writing style. THE GIRLS OF ATOMIC CITY is a book I can recommend to anyone. From the book: "Bringing together people from all walks of life with a common purpose but, in most cases, no familial or societal ties certainly encouraged individuals to get to know one another rather quickly. But the rate of adjustment varied. It took more than houses to make homes, more than cafeterias and bowling alleys to build community. [Psychiatrist] Dr. Clarke noted upon arriving that homesickness, especially among the young women, remained a concern, as did morale and depression." (p. 135)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This is the story of ordinary people in extraordinary times, skillfully written to make the story unfold before the reader much like a novel. It’s the story of life in a secret city with a population of nearly 80,000, built within a year (1942-1943), on what had been farm land, and very few of the inhabitants and workers had any knowledge of the purpose of the place. And as the title indicates, many of those living there were women, and this book features their life and experiences. This is the s This is the story of ordinary people in extraordinary times, skillfully written to make the story unfold before the reader much like a novel. It’s the story of life in a secret city with a population of nearly 80,000, built within a year (1942-1943), on what had been farm land, and very few of the inhabitants and workers had any knowledge of the purpose of the place. And as the title indicates, many of those living there were women, and this book features their life and experiences. This is the story of Oak Ridge, Tennessee where uranium was enriched for use in the first (and so far the only) atomic bombs used in war. One of the unique features of this book is that it sort of parallels the secrecy experienced by the workers by referring to the raw material they were working with as “tubealloy.” I kept asking myself what in the world is tubealloy? Many of those working there noticed that everything goes into the place, but nothing comes out. What they didn’t know was that when the finished product left, it left in such small quantities that it was carried in a brief case. A large part of the story is the emphasis on secrecy and security. The Oak Ridge reservation officially didn’t exist. Letters addressed to Oak Ridge were returned to sender because no city of the name existed. Workers who wrote letters home had so much of their letters blacked out by the censors that the letter’s recipient in many cases couldn’t make sense of it. Many of those who accepted jobs at the place were given train tickets to go to their place of employment, but were not told where it was, how far away, and what they would be doing. Nothing this big could ever be kept so secret like it was then (ask Iran about that). All they were told was that they were doing something to help end the war. On August 6, 1945 they learned what they had been working on. President Truman addressed the nation and for the first time publicly mentioned words “Oak Ridge." At first all were happy that the war was ending and that they had contributed to its ending. After the magnitude and consequences of the atomic bomb became known feelings were more complicated. There are some interesting videos at this link. On http://www.girlsofatomiccity.com/video.html Here's a detail I recently learned (not from this book) which I am adding here for my future reference if needed. The uranium from Oak Ridge was used in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki used plutonium from Hanford, Washington. The test in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945 used plutonium from Hanford. There was no pretest of the uranium bomb.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    This was a secret government project during World War II. The goal was to create a weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb, a part of the Manhattan Project. There is a website: http://www.girlsofatomiccity.com/. Included on the site is a one hour video of an interesting presentation by author Denise Kiernan at NYU shortly after the book was published in 2013. The project site included tens of thousands of acres of land that was taken by the federal government via the eminent domain process i This was a secret government project during World War II. The goal was to create a weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb, a part of the Manhattan Project. There is a website: http://www.girlsofatomiccity.com/. Included on the site is a one hour video of an interesting presentation by author Denise Kiernan at NYU shortly after the book was published in 2013. The project site included tens of thousands of acres of land that was taken by the federal government via the eminent domain process in 1942. People were evicted from homes, farms and businesses with legal notice of three to six weeks. The site was about 92 square miles, roughly 17 miles long and averaging seven miles wide. For some residents of East Tennessee, this was the third time they were evicted from their lands – both the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and the Norris Dam having already claimed their share years before. There were 800 parcels of land taken, an estimated 1,000 families and 3,000 people displaced. Since the intended use of the land was a secret, the land was seized as the Kingston Demolition Range and eventually designated officially as the Clinton Engineer Works. The U.S. Congress held hearings a response to the many complaints from citizens who felt they had not been paid fairly for their property. No money was paid to compensate for moving or resettlement expenses. But there was no stopping the Project. Within a couple of years 75,000 people lived in Oak Ridge. Initial projections of the anticipated size of the town were 13,000. In terms of underestimates, the cost of the Y-12 plant was budgeted at $30 million but eventually cost $475 million, foreshadowing of current day military cost overruns. In just over two years The Project spent over $2 billion in tax money often without much legislative approval. There was a 350 bed hospital, a library overseen by a librarian brought in from New York City, an all white school system through high school and an Army (literally) of law enforcement. Including the people who commuted from outside Oak Ridge, over 100,000 worked there. The plants ran three shifts every day. The need for workers to build and staff the Project did not avoid issues of race that dominated housing and employment. In 1942 Presidential Executive Order 8802 stated that “there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in the defense industries or government because of race, creed, color or national origin.” The Fair Employment Practices Committee had also been established to address discrimination in wartime industries. But that did not mean an end to segregation in a Jim Crow state like Tennessee. Though the government had the opportunity to establish the Reservation as a completely desegregated zone, it did not; black residents on the grounds of the Clinton Engineer Works would be primarily laborers, janitors, and domestics, and would live separately no matter their education or background. What kind of people were the Project recruiters looking to hire? The Project liked high school girls, especially those from rural backgrounds. Recruiters sought them out relentlessly, feeling young women were easy to instruct. They did what they were told. They weren’t overly curious. If you tell a young woman of 18 from a small-town background to do something, she’ll do it, no questions asked. Educated women and men, people who had gone to college and learned just enough to think that they might “know” something, gave you problems. The Project scoured the countryside of Tennessee and beyond looking for recent graduates. Once people arrived at the Reservation, the emphasis was on secrecy and security. You don’t talk about what you are doing even with others working there. No one was supposed to try to figure out what was going on! This shouldn’t have been a big shock since even the recruiters and flyers they had seen back home did not divulge where the jobs were and what they would be doing. Want to help the war effort? Make good money? Can you keep your lip zipped? Can you pass background investigations? Are you ready to step into the unknown? If so, the Project could be for you! The Girls of Atomic City is not just about young girls settling into a new life in a new location. The scientific work to create a “sustained nuclear reaction” is also covered as well as the other science and engineering needed to bring The Project to a successful and deadly conclusion. Leona Woods was a twenty-three year old assistant to Enrico Fermi, the Italian physicist. They were working at the University of Chicago. Their goal was to build a nuclear reactor and Leona Woods was there when it happened. Hers was a captivating face, and the only female one in the crowd on the courts that day. She walked briskly alongside her small, fiery mentor, each of them quietly wondering if they really had been the first to pull this off, or if the Germans had already surpassed their achievement without any of them knowing. Enrico Fermi died of stomach cancer at the age of 53. His exposure to nuclear radiation before its dangers were fully understood likely contributed to his death. It is interesting to know that at the time of his great success as a physicist in 1942, his wife was not privy to knowledge about what he and his colleagues where doing. They were all congratulating each other and she did not know why! Every brilliant scientist who was asked to join The Project did not agree to participate. And some that participated were not ultimately happy about their participation. Lise Meitner is one who “wanted no part of it” although she was one of the architects who, four years before, had worked on theories that made the accomplishment of Fermi possible. History makes much of the contributions of women in the war effort by taking factory jobs since so many men were taken away by the military draft. But it was complicated for women with families to find housing on the grounds of the Project in Tennessee called Clinton Engineer Works then Oak Ridge. Only “heads of households” were eligible to apply for available on-site family housing. Women were not, no matter their circumstances, considered heads of household. And don’t even bother bringing your children if you are black. No school for black children. It was a total, self-contained community complete with discrimination and segregation. There had been plans for an entire Negro Village, one that would have resembled the main Townsite with construction like the white homes, separate but essentially equal. But as housing became limited … it was decided that the Negro Village would become East Village – for whites. Lieutenant Colonel Crenshaw, who was in charge of the program, explained why. Negroes didn’t want the nice houses, he wrote. His office had received virtually no applications for the village. The negroes felt more comfortable in the huts, that was what was familiar to them – or so went Crenshaw’s rationale. The book is an interesting combination of scientific and sociological information in each chapter. Oak Ridge was a massive unintentional sociological experiment of transplanting thousands of people into a newly created and isolated community. Participants were not selected randomly but were carefully screened. The average age was 27 with many unmarried young men and women. With thousands of young, unmarried people aged 18-25, surprisingly little is made of the sexual activity that was likely going on there. The scientific detail included is not insignificant but mostly not overwhelming to the non-scientist. The information is clearly divided – with separate sections within each chapter and even a different typeface – allowing the reader to focus his or her attention. I found the scientific information enlightening even when I (often) did not fully understand it. It did give me a feeling of what it must have been like for the “average” worker who was only given minimal information about what was being done. Every security protocol . . . was guided by a simple rule: “Each man should know everything he needed to know to do his job and nothing else.” I am pretty sure I would not have understood even if someone tried to explain what it was I was doing! I found it a bit mind-boggling and far outside the scope of my experience. Just imagine a huge construction site with all new buildings and infrastructure being created out of nothing and then try to imagine thousands of people living and working on the site as it is being built and developed. It was a planned community where the rules and procedures were being implemented day by day with immense top-down control. Through most of the book, the “secret” invisibility cloak is used. The bomb is called The Gadget, uranium is called Tubealloy, there is The General and The Engineer, and most of the buildings are called by their secret designations, K-25 & Y-12, for example. And, of course, there is The Project. You wanted your R high. That was better than Q. There was a charge near the bottom of the D unit. Something was vaporized. There was a Z. The E box caught everything. Open the shutters. Maximize the beam. Supervisors spoke of striking a J. M voltage. G voltage. K voltage. And if you got your M voltage up, then Product would hit the birdcage in the E box at the top of the unit and if that happened, you’d get the Q and R you wanted. It was that simple. Wasn’t the world shocked by the instantaneous death of an estimated 70,000 people in Hiroshima? We are not often reminded that in March 1945, 279 B-29s bombed Tokyo destroying 267,000 buildings and killing more than 83,000. And don’t forget the fire bombings in Germany that killed tens of thousands. The fact that a second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan within days might have been more shocking to Americans. And there was a third bomb in the production line. In football, we call that piling on. The effects of radiation were not fully known; many were unnecessarily exposed. In fact, at the Oak Ridge Hospital at least one patient was experimentally injected with plutonium without informed consent. This book is filled with little bits of detail and lots of question marks for the current reader. And it is all relatively well glued together. A lot is packed into just several years and The Girls of Atomic City provides some suspense, plenty of personal experiences drawn from research and current-day interviews, and a satisfying outcome. (Not that what actually happened is satisfying but that how the book wraps it up the story is satisfying.) Japan surrendered five days after the second bomb and only several days before the third bomb could have been dropped. The claim was, since the beginning, that The Project would hasten the end of the war. And what about the people of Oak Ridge? What a strange mix of feelings it was after the bomb dropped. That was what was so hard for her and so many others to explain to those who hadn’t lived through it – how she could feel both good and bad about something at the same time, pride and guilt and joy and relief and shame. She wasn’t alone; so many of them now lived a life of jobs and husbands and babies, still saddened by the memory of those who were lost forever, no matter how hard they had worked to bring them home. Author Denise Kiernan pulls few punches in her book. She describes Hiroshima after the bombing based on information from the earliest outsiders who went into the destroyed city. She talks about the experiments injecting plutonium into human subjects based on information in archives and oral histories conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission. In the story of Oak Ridge she covers the gamut of social issues and ills that any community of 75,000 might have faced in the early 1940s as well as the special circumstances of Oak Ridge due to its origin and secrecy. It is a city that began with mud and no sidewalks for workers and residents to traverse. She looks back on the diminished and hidden role of several women in the discovery of fission. After the war the population of Oak Ridge dropped to 42,465 and employment dropped from 82,000 to 29,000. Weapons-grade uranium was produced there until 1964.The gates to Oak Ridge were opened with the elimination of guards and security checks and badges in 1949. Gradually federal government control of the town – not the plants – declined as private ownership of homes increased until 1959 when Oak Ridge incorporated. Denise Kiernan covers “Life in the New Age” after the bomb with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the Cold War and the advent of nuclear power. And one of the more interesting chapters, I think, is the Epilogue. Only five pages long, it tells what still stands in Oak Ridge (population 28,000) seventy years later in 2013. I don’t think I would make a special trip to visit Oak Ridge but the obvious time if you want to go there is during the Secret City Festival held each June. Maybe I should just look at a map and see if the route to someplace I do want to visit could detour me through Oak Ridge. I have been a part of the peace movement for many years. August 6th and 9th are solemnly commemorated each year. Oak Ridge is not in the peace movement picture. The book does not mention if there were ever anti-nuclear demonstrations in more recent years at Y-12 or K-25 at Oak Ridge. Finally, The Girls of Atomic City has 35 pages of Notes and an Index. The Notes present a story in themselves that show how the author gathered the material that eventually became the book. It is a fascinating book that earns five stars from me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell 4**** From the book jacket: At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians – many of them young women from small towns across the South – were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the tru nature of the t Audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell 4**** From the book jacket: At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians – many of them young women from small towns across the South – were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the tru nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war – when Oak Ridge’s secret was revealed. My Reactions This is a very interesting micro history of the men and women – many women – who worked to extract the key ingredient that would fuel the bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasacki, thereby ending the war. Kiernan did much research and was able to interview a few surviving women to get their personal stories. In this way we learn about the housekeepers, nurses, chemists, office clerks, statisticians, lab workers, and calutron cubicle operators who each worked in isolation, knowing only just enough about what they were supposed to do, but never knowing the entire scope of the project. Using the personal stories of a handful of women made the history personal and engaging. What I found particularly fascinating was how the government built this city from scratch. The early workers arrived to mud and a few dormitories, but very quickly the city grew to include a hospital, cemetery, residences, mass transit system, and facilities for religious observance and recreation (gymnasium, movie theater, dance hall, etc). Cassandra Campbell does a fine job narrating the audio version. She has become one of my favorite audio performers. She has good pacing, clear diction, and is able to breathe life into the performance. In places I felt that I was listening to the young women relate their experiences.

  16. 5 out of 5

    MissM

    The book was interesting but not what I expected. I thought it was going to be more of a biography of women who had been directly and indirectly involved in the making of the atomic bomb(s) of WWII. And it did touch on them throughout the book, but not in any deep or meaningful way that let me feel as if I knew them. It felt more like what it was; the author had gone to interview many women and they shared snippets, little moments of events which made it into the book. The making of a biscuit pa The book was interesting but not what I expected. I thought it was going to be more of a biography of women who had been directly and indirectly involved in the making of the atomic bomb(s) of WWII. And it did touch on them throughout the book, but not in any deep or meaningful way that let me feel as if I knew them. It felt more like what it was; the author had gone to interview many women and they shared snippets, little moments of events which made it into the book. The making of a biscuit pan, the thick Southern accent of one woman to her her Yankee boss - just little parcels rather than complete pictures. Interspersed were chapters about the scientific side of "Tubealloy" and how it was coming to be discovered, refined, and processed for use in the "Gadget." Some of these sections, though interesting historically, were a bit dry. Overall, it was more a broad picture of the years leading up to the end of WWII and some small moments in the lives of some of the women who were working in the place which was secretly refining the uranium for the bomb. Interesting in a historic context, but not as personal a tale as I had thought it would be going in.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    What an excellent book! I haven't anticipated reading a new book so much since I read The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo last year. Both are excellent books, but I would give the edge to this one. Kiernan introduces the reader to nine unique ladies who worked at Clinton Engineering Works under the cloak of secrecy. One lady, Celia,a government worker, was transported to the plant from New York City by train at night. She had no idea where the train wa What an excellent book! I haven't anticipated reading a new book so much since I read The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo last year. Both are excellent books, but I would give the edge to this one. Kiernan introduces the reader to nine unique ladies who worked at Clinton Engineering Works under the cloak of secrecy. One lady, Celia,a government worker, was transported to the plant from New York City by train at night. She had no idea where the train was taking her. Others were given limited information. So, why did they consent to work at CEW? A better paycheck than they could make elsewhere, independence or career opportunities not available elsewhere. The book impressed me with its superb organization. From the opening cast of characters, places and things,the map of the facility, then in between the ladies' stories, the author inserted shorter chapters explaining the science that took place at CEW, followed by 30 pages of notes for further enlightenment, then concluded by an index of terms. These components made the book geared to educate with little effort on the reader's part. I appreciated this along with the author's easy-to-read writing style. The biggest problem I had was keeping from getting a couple of the ladies confused, but of course, a quick peek at the cast of characters remedied that! As mentioned, the writing style was excellent primarily because it read like a novel, not bogged down because the smaller details and scientific facts were melded together by the relevant short chapters between the story chapters. The change of pace provided a nice break. I highly recommend this book to a wide group of readers such as history and WWII buffs, memoir readers (the ladies' stories read like a memoir), women who like to read about strong women (women scientists played a significant role in fission research), science aficionados, avid readers of non-fiction and anyone who is interested in this topic. 4.5 stars

  18. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Girls of Atomic City This is the perfectly executed history book: It tells a story from a side (women) that most people haven’t heard. It includes female scientists, African American women, native Tennessee women, transplants from the city, transplants from the prairie, and interactions between the women and Japanese women years immediately –and years- after the bomb fell. It covers racial tensions, social caste tensions, segregation and discrimination in the workplace, and the struggles of femal Girls of Atomic City This is the perfectly executed history book: It tells a story from a side (women) that most people haven’t heard. It includes female scientists, African American women, native Tennessee women, transplants from the city, transplants from the prairie, and interactions between the women and Japanese women years immediately –and years- after the bomb fell. It covers racial tensions, social caste tensions, segregation and discrimination in the workplace, and the struggles of female scientists to be taken seriously or even recognized for what were their discoveries. You get multiple perspectives, and that is what good history is really about. I also like the structure of the book. It was compartmentalized, just as these women’s lives would have been. Imagine sitting at a desk for 12 hours a day, adjusting knobs and watching dials to ensure they stayed within a certain range, but having no idea why. Or cleaning miles and miles of pipe, free of all dust, when no one ever walked through any ways. Or working in shipping and receiving, tons of goods were taken off trains daily, but nothing ever seemed to leave Oak Ridge. These women didn’t know what was going on, they didn’t interact with one another, and they never ever talked about work… and in many ways that’s the structure of the book. Some people have complained that this structure kept the reader from immersing in any characters story, that you never felt connected or care about any of the women and the story. I personally didn’t have that problem. I felt very much that we were interacting with them in a way that they would have interacted with each other at the time- a little stilted, careful to say nothing wrong. And, the author can really only tell us what these women told her in their interviews. Perhaps they weren’t emotional, or stressed, or joyous, about the work they did anymore- it’s been years, they’ve had time to think rationally and decide what stories they were going to tell. You just don’t know. I would LOVE for this to be turned into a mini-series on the History Channel… or whatever channel that now acts as the History Channel since the History channel is about “aliens” and “ice trucking.” I will say this, and I’ve said it a thousand times, history books would really benefit from a dramatis personae. So many people, so many names, help a reader out would ya? In the end I would 100% absolutely recommend this book. It was very easy to set down, but very easy to pick back up again. It might not have been a real page-turner to me, but on every single page I felt like I was learning ten new things. There was just so much about this time, this place, that no one knows about, but Kiernan brings us closer to the story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Per FTC rules: I received a free copy of this book as a giveaway from Goodreads First Reads. What an outstanding read! I've made a point of contacting the author to let her know what a great book this was, and it certainly is the best book I've read this year. This story, based on interactions and interviews with the women who worked (and lived) at Oak Ridge, is truly remarkable in both its telling and its creation. It seems almost fictional for those of us who grew up in a world where nuclear en Per FTC rules: I received a free copy of this book as a giveaway from Goodreads First Reads. What an outstanding read! I've made a point of contacting the author to let her know what a great book this was, and it certainly is the best book I've read this year. This story, based on interactions and interviews with the women who worked (and lived) at Oak Ridge, is truly remarkable in both its telling and its creation. It seems almost fictional for those of us who grew up in a world where nuclear energy, and the atomic bomb, were well known and, practically, second nature. What I found most interesting is that everyone was encouraged and admonished to keep the secret even though they didn't know what the secret was. And the most astonishing thing was that people simply got on trains to "somewhere" to do "something" just because they were told it would help end the war faster. That level of patriotism and/or naivete does not exist in this country any more. It has been replaced by cynicism and skepticism and I'm not sure which is the more desired. Kiernan has crafted an exceptional story, that, judging by the extensive notes section, is well-researched. This is no fluff novel about girls who were merely sideline players. These women played an integral part in the creation of the atomic age. It's a wonderful book that you will not want to put down.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    A nicely written, well-researched story on the creation of the atomic bomb. The book does a good job of bringing the science down to an attainable level for most readers. It's not an in-depth scientific look at the A-bomb by any means. Rather, the author tells the story through the women who moved to Oak Ridge, TN to work on the secretive Manhattan Project. In similar fashion to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the book alternates between scientific/historical accounts and delving into the A nicely written, well-researched story on the creation of the atomic bomb. The book does a good job of bringing the science down to an attainable level for most readers. It's not an in-depth scientific look at the A-bomb by any means. Rather, the author tells the story through the women who moved to Oak Ridge, TN to work on the secretive Manhattan Project. In similar fashion to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the book alternates between scientific/historical accounts and delving into the personal lives of the women. I actually would have enjoyed knowing these women at a deeper level than is presented in the book. That was the only reason I chose 4 instead of a 5 star rating. A very good book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Content: 5 stars Execution: 3 stars This is a great story of some of the women who helped with the making of the first atomic bomb. It was fascinating how they were recruited and then carried out their jobs. I loved reading about the history here. I just wasn't crazy about the writing. Some of it was kind of dry and weighty. Before it even really got started, I thought I wasn't going to be able to do it.....but I'm glad I did. The story was worth the read. Content: 5 stars Execution: 3 stars This is a great story of some of the women who helped with the making of the first atomic bomb. It was fascinating how they were recruited and then carried out their jobs. I loved reading about the history here. I just wasn't crazy about the writing. Some of it was kind of dry and weighty. Before it even really got started, I thought I wasn't going to be able to do it.....but I'm glad I did. The story was worth the read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nicole R

    This was a hard book for me to rate. I absolutely loved the topic and appreciated that it was a a totally new subject to me that (supposedly) highlighted the role of women in creating the atomic bomb. But, I felt the title was a bit of false advertising and the story was not nearly as compelling as it could have easily been. After Pearl Harbor, there was an otherworldly confluence of scientific breakthroughs related to atomic fission and collection of scientific geniuses the likes of which the wo This was a hard book for me to rate. I absolutely loved the topic and appreciated that it was a a totally new subject to me that (supposedly) highlighted the role of women in creating the atomic bomb. But, I felt the title was a bit of false advertising and the story was not nearly as compelling as it could have easily been. After Pearl Harbor, there was an otherworldly confluence of scientific breakthroughs related to atomic fission and collection of scientific geniuses the likes of which the world may never see again. They had the theoretical key to ending the war: an atomic bomb. But, the practical constraints of purifying and collecting vast quantities of the rare element posed a problem. A problem that President Roosevelt and the U.S. Army tackled full on. A triumvirate of top-secret scientific sites popped up across the U.S.: Manhattan, headquarters of the think tank; New Mexico, testing grounds for the future bomb; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, expansive industrial site to make the most important component of the bomb. There was a slight problem: The Army needed vast tracks of land, construction of the largest buildings in the world, and over 75,000 people to live in utmost secrecy to work in the production facilities. Thousands upon thousands of people relocated to Oak Ridge, moved into modular housing, and worked 12+ hours a day doing a single, narrow task without asking others about the big picture or talking about their jobs. This could have only occurred pre-Twitter. Without a doubt, Oak Ridge was a miracle mission, and I am not just talking about the billions of dollars hidden in congressional appropriations bills. This make-shift settlement became a home to many people and housed the world's biggest secret in plain site. The workers did important work and brought a swift, though now controversial, end to what could have been years more of fighting Japan. I also liked that the author simultaneously told the story of the scientists and events leading up to the need for Oak Ridge. I am in awe of those scientists who did something so ground-breaking, so history-altering that they will live on forever in infamy. And, I am not just talking about their contributions leading to the building of the bomb; nuclear fission changed the face of what we thought we knew of chemistry and physics and while fission can be used for bad, it can -- and has been -- used for so much good. And, I appreciated all of those descriptions in the book, I enjoyed reading about the women, but there was nothing special about them in this book. Yes, the author mentioned several times that the largest portion of this new workforce were female, but I didn't feel like she was invested in that premise. It was more like she happened to pick women to interview out of convenience and then decided to capitalize on it. But, the most glaring misstep to me was that the stories of the women were not compelling. I realize that after having read books like Unbroken, Boys in the Boat, and In the Kingdom of Ice that I have extremely high expectations of my situational nonfiction (I just made that term up), but the women were not distinctly described, I did not find myself particularly caring what happened to them, and I was not overly intrigued. It lacked personal details of their stories, which should have been readily available because these women were all interviewed in person by the author. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book; I appreciated learning something new and it was not poorly written. But, it seems like a missed opportunity to write something more outstanding.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    If you are at all interested in women's history, the history of America's nuclear program, or Cold War history, The Girls of Atomic City should be one of those books that gets added on to and then moved up to the top of your tbr pile. It is one of the most thought-provoking nonfiction books I've read in a long time. As always, you can read the shortened version here, or click through for the longer one. In a nutshell, Girls of Atomic City explores some of the women who helped keep things going d If you are at all interested in women's history, the history of America's nuclear program, or Cold War history, The Girls of Atomic City should be one of those books that gets added on to and then moved up to the top of your tbr pile. It is one of the most thought-provoking nonfiction books I've read in a long time. As always, you can read the shortened version here, or click through for the longer one. In a nutshell, Girls of Atomic City explores some of the women who helped keep things going during the war in a project located in a facility in what is now Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one that was geared toward putting an end to the war,as well as a place that tens of thousands of people called home. The women were trained to do only very specific tasks without understanding the overall project that their labors helped to create. They were not allowed to talk about their work, nor were they allowed to question anything, and they never knew who might report them if they did. The project was so secret that wives couldn't talk to husbands about their work, dating couples couldn't discuss their jobs, workers couldn't talk to families or friends on the outside, and violations of that rule often ended up with people simply disappearing, never to be heard from or seen ever again. The women, along with the majority of men working at Oak Ridge, had no clue at all that everything they did helped to contribute to the production of the atomic bomb that was used first in Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki. It was only when the bombs were dropped that the news was released, and people finally realized what it was they'd been working on, with very mixed reactions. In The Girls of Atomic City, the author examines the personal and professional lives of some of the women who called Oak Ridge home for the duration. It can get a little boggy sometimes with too much detail, and in some cases doesn't seem to go far enough in terms of questions that imho weren't asked, but despite these flaws, an overall look at the big picture makes this a history well worth reading. It also made me wonder whether or not something like an Oak Ridge might be possible today in terms of the sheer amount of secrecy involved. The book is definitely thought provoking and also provides a look inside the America of the WWII years. Highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Any conversation around the Manhattan Project and development of atomic energy brings out all kinds of mixed feelings. This book is an interesting take on this part of American history from the perspective of the women who worked there. No complete surprises. Gender bias played a role in the workplace in that era. The percentage of women attaining a college education compared to men was still low. Or if they did, there was no advancement. What attracted people to the rise of this secret city and Any conversation around the Manhattan Project and development of atomic energy brings out all kinds of mixed feelings. This book is an interesting take on this part of American history from the perspective of the women who worked there. No complete surprises. Gender bias played a role in the workplace in that era. The percentage of women attaining a college education compared to men was still low. Or if they did, there was no advancement. What attracted people to the rise of this secret city and the opportunity for employment seemed motivated by their own poverty, a blind trusting patriotism or a need for adventure. The social constraints of such living conditions were either advantageous or isolating. That the quality of life was segregated racially was sad but again no surprise. As a military spouse there was nothing unexpected about the secrecy surrounding Oak Ridge or such a project, but the ethical questions remain. To this day we can still debate the “need to know.” Various aspects were of more immediate personal connection. Both my husband and brother have been there for work. The Enola Gay was built here at Offutt AFB miles from my house. I had varied reactions to the book. At times the number of characters were confusing and hard to keep track of. Sometimes the stories got a bit more personal than was holding my interest. A couple places got repetitive. However, I appreciate this part of history and its controversial nature. I appreciate how Kiernan presented it thoughtfully and without any obvious judgment. It wasn't just about the women, whom she presented from a breadth of educational and cultural backgrounds. It also contained a generous sprinkling of historical information in her biographical sketches. I have had a book about Oppenheimer that now is calling my name and may need to be bumped up the list.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I don't know - I found myself not caring terribly much about this story and these people. That's exactly the opposite of what the author intended - she wanted the reader to be deeply invested in the life stories of an arbitrarily chosen/representative group of young women who worked at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project, as perhaps a friendly handholding way for the reader to enter the story of the Bomb. (The "Cast of Characters" list at the start of the book lends to this idea of a grand sa I don't know - I found myself not caring terribly much about this story and these people. That's exactly the opposite of what the author intended - she wanted the reader to be deeply invested in the life stories of an arbitrarily chosen/representative group of young women who worked at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project, as perhaps a friendly handholding way for the reader to enter the story of the Bomb. (The "Cast of Characters" list at the start of the book lends to this idea of a grand saga.) But I didn't respond favorably to Kiernan's cherry-picking of stories of women involved in the Project - whether centrally (e.g., Lise Meitner) or peripherally (so peripheral I've forgotten their names) - just because they were women. I understand why she did it, but I got that Orange Prize-feeling (if anyone knows what I mean). I've read a lot of books about the Project (and my bookshelves are filled with several more I have yet to read), and this one will not stand out. For a true behind-the-scenes account (they're all behind-the-scenes accounts in one way or another, of course) I favor Jennet Conant's 109 East Palace.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    From the author: "The challenge in telling the story of the atomic bomb is one of nuance, requiring thought and sensitivity and walking a line between commemoration and celebration." I think Kiernan pulls off this difficult high wire act with intelligence, thorough research, personal and homey anecdotes sprinkled with journalistic vignettes on the bomb as it progresses. A close examination of the secret city built in Tennessee, which drafted thousands of female volunteers. An important, though gr From the author: "The challenge in telling the story of the atomic bomb is one of nuance, requiring thought and sensitivity and walking a line between commemoration and celebration." I think Kiernan pulls off this difficult high wire act with intelligence, thorough research, personal and homey anecdotes sprinkled with journalistic vignettes on the bomb as it progresses. A close examination of the secret city built in Tennessee, which drafted thousands of female volunteers. An important, though grim, part of our history.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mo

    I made it to page 111 in chapter 5 and I'm calling it quits. The construction of this book is lousy. It jumps all over the place, there are too many characters to remember, none of them are memorable, the author relates WAY too much information about the specifics of making the bomb and only provides mundane snippets of the lives of the "girls" and I AM BORED TO TEARS! Read with SBC book club November 2016 (or not, as the case may be) I made it to page 111 in chapter 5 and I'm calling it quits. The construction of this book is lousy. It jumps all over the place, there are too many characters to remember, none of them are memorable, the author relates WAY too much information about the specifics of making the bomb and only provides mundane snippets of the lives of the "girls" and I AM BORED TO TEARS! Read with SBC book club November 2016 (or not, as the case may be)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This book has been on my shelf for a long time and I'm glad I finally got to it. It recounts the war time experiences of a handful of women who left their homes to work as secretaries, factory workers, cleaners, nurses, statisticians, and chemists at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They represent the thousands of Americans who were recruited to this secret city that grew to 75,000 during its peak with the promise of good wages and work that would help bring an end to the war. The major caveat, though, was This book has been on my shelf for a long time and I'm glad I finally got to it. It recounts the war time experiences of a handful of women who left their homes to work as secretaries, factory workers, cleaners, nurses, statisticians, and chemists at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They represent the thousands of Americans who were recruited to this secret city that grew to 75,000 during its peak with the promise of good wages and work that would help bring an end to the war. The major caveat, though, was that everything they were doing must remain secret. As they quickly learned, those who talked too much or asked too many questions were sent packing. The social and work lives of people living and working in Oak Ridge make for a fascinating story. Their contributions to the creation of the Atomic Bomb are important and well worth remembering.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lady ♥ Belleza

    If I were to say Los Alamos or The Manhattan Project, most people would know what I was talking about. If I were to say Hanford, WA or Oakridge, TN fewer people would know what I was referring to. This website about Los Alamos, New Mexico mentions both places briefly. What it doesn’t tell you is neither town existed before the 1940′s. This book is the history of the town of Oak Ridge, TN. More specifically it is the story of the many young women who came to Oak Ridge to help win the war. Ms. Kier If I were to say Los Alamos or The Manhattan Project, most people would know what I was talking about. If I were to say Hanford, WA or Oakridge, TN fewer people would know what I was referring to. This website about Los Alamos, New Mexico mentions both places briefly. What it doesn’t tell you is neither town existed before the 1940′s. This book is the history of the town of Oak Ridge, TN. More specifically it is the story of the many young women who came to Oak Ridge to help win the war. Ms. Kiernan gives a first hand account of the young women who came to live and work at the plants that the government was constructing in the newly formed city of Oakridge, TN. It was a secret project, the workers themselves didn’t know what they were working on. Everyone hired had to have a security check, the buildings were numbered, the substance they were working with was called Tubealloy or Product, their mail going out was censored and mail sent to them was returned to family members because the Post Office didn’t know where Oakridge was. All the workers knew was they were making more money than they could anyplace else and that their work “could end the war sooner”. For many of the young women, it meant seeing their loved ones sooner. For others it meant making a loved ones death mean something. While colored or black or African American (whichever designation you prefer) workers were hired, the jobs they did and their living conditions were vastly different than what was provided for white workers. For many they were ‘used’ to discrimination, it was a fact of life in the south, and the wages were much better than elsewhere. For some it was more money than they had ever seen in their lives. For many of the women, the job was something they wouldn’t have been able to get elsewhere given the fact that they were women. Reading this book is like traveling back in time, learning about how life was in Tennessee and the US in the 40s. Women weren’t allowed in certain fields of work. People didn’t question the government and didn’t complain. One thing Ms. Kiernan doesn’t cover is any current health problems for people exposed to the radioactive material. Apparently there were not the problems in Tennessee as were in other locations involved in the construction and testing of atomic weapons. A very fascinating and informative book about a very interesting period of history.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    A very interesting book on the building and running of Oak Ridge, Tennessee which developed the fuel for the atomic bomb during World War II. Located in an isolated section of East Tennessee, 25 miles from Knoxville, it was built in a hurry and in as much secrecy as possible. Young men and women from all around the country and especially the surrounding area were recruited, given no indication of where they would be going or what they would be doing or for how long but promised good pay and a ch A very interesting book on the building and running of Oak Ridge, Tennessee which developed the fuel for the atomic bomb during World War II. Located in an isolated section of East Tennessee, 25 miles from Knoxville, it was built in a hurry and in as much secrecy as possible. Young men and women from all around the country and especially the surrounding area were recruited, given no indication of where they would be going or what they would be doing or for how long but promised good pay and a chance to help end the war. The opportunities for young women were especially attractive and they are the focus of Ms. Kiernan's story. The style of Ms. Kiernan's writing capture's the nature of the intense secrecy surrounding every aspect of working and living at Oak Ridge. All jobs were on a strictly need to know basis, no one actually knew the purpose or reason or ultimate use what they were working on would be put to, no matter how large or small the job, how simple or intricate. Talking about any part of it was forbidden and could result in immediate removal - literally. Obviously, the stress levels were high. Only the use of the code words for the buildings, uranium, plutonium, and various processes was a little difficult to keep track of but there is a glossary to refer to. The surprising part of this story for me were the many high level and intricate jobs that women were doing. Not just secretarial or clerk level or "Rosie the Riveter" type positions were open to them. If qualified, they also filled many scientific and administrative positions. I've read the Los Alamos end of the atomic bomb program but this story of the part Oak Ridge played was new and interesting. Highly recommended.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.