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HerStory: A Special Women’s History Reception and Celebration on March 22

  kattie strickland
Kattie Strickland made homemade biscuits for guards in the Secret City so that she could spend more time with her husband. Image courtesy of DOE.

OAK RIDGE - As part of Women’s History Month and the 75th Anniversary of Oak Ridge, there will be a special Manhattan Project event on Thursday, March 22 starting at 5:30 pm (ET) at the New Hope Visitor Center, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. During the event Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be presented with a biscuit pan secretly used by Mrs. Kattie Strickland during the Manhattan Project. The biscuit pan is an important cultural artifact for the park that can help provide context of the story of a woman who worked on the Manhattan Project.

Each person had a unique story of why they found themselves working in the Secret City. For Kattie Strickland, an African-American woman from Alabama, going to the Secret City meant a better future for her family. She and her husband left their four children with her mother and sent money home every week. During the war Oak Ridge was segregated and African-American husbands and wives were not allowed to live together. Kattie asked construction workers to make her a biscuit pan from metal scraps. Cooking over a pot-bellied stove in her tent she leveraged her homemade biscuits to feed the guards who then allowed her spend more time with her husband. Although she faced unfair treatment Kattie Strickland persevered, providing opportunities for her family while contributing to one of the largest scientific undertakings in history.

manhatten project women
From janitor to homemaker to chemist, the women of the Manhattan Project worked hard and talked little. Photo courtesy of DOE.

The event will also include the opening of “HerStory: A Photography Exhibition of Women in the Secret City.” From janitor to homemaker to chemist, the women of the Manhattan Project worked hard and talked little. During WWII, Oak Ridge was a government town of 70,000 workers; primarily women who lived in a camp-like environment of barbed wire, security checkpoints, and code words. Workers were fingerprinted, interviewed, assigned a job, and given a clearance badge. Housing was limited and cramped and often unheated. Food at the cafeterias was in short supply and lines were long.

The “HerStory” photography exhibition and Mrs. Strickland’s biscuit pan will be on display at the New Hope Visitor Center throughout the month of April and is sponsored by the Department of Energy, National Park Service and Explore Oak Ridge. The New Hope Visitor Center is located at 602 Scarboro Road, Oak Ridge, TN.

Published March 12, 2018

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