Their Day in the Sun: Women of the Manhattan Project

by Ruth Howes, Caroline Herzenberg

Reviewed June 22, 2004

Book CoverThe story of the Manhattan Project is often told as a tale of several key people, guiding the complex and unseen process of developing an atomic bomb. The actual scale of the effort to produce the atomic bombs is easily ignored due to the difficult nature of telling a story of such a vast enterprise. Lost within this tale is the critical role of the many women who worked on the Manhattan Project.

In Their Day in the Sun, authors Ruth Howes and Caroline Herzenberg attempt to chronicle the roles that women played, from physicists and chemists at Los Alamos, public health specialists at Oak Ridge and Hanford to chemists at the Met Lab. This effort to learn more about the roles women played in the Manhattan Project reads like a detective story, as the authors combed written records and photographs to generate leads to pursue. Their efforts are valuable since so little has been documented. Howes and Herzenberg recount tales of the various scientific problems, the discrimination, the abrupt recruitment and the consequences of the project ending. The book does show the difficultly in locating information on this topic by the occasional short anecdotes. Nevertheless, the book is a worthy addition to any library.