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Curtiss-Wright Cadettes



  • Existence: 1943 - 1946

Historical Information

After the entry of the United States into World War II, the Curtis-Wright Corporation, a leading producer of planes for the war effort, experienced extreme labor shortages as increasing numbers of men were recruited for military efforts. In an effort to alleviate these shortages and keep up with production demands, the aeronautics corporation proposed the creation of a training program for women who were mathematically inclined or whom had previously demonstrated proficiency in science. The program was to be an extremely abbreviated introduction to aeronautical engineering that would prepare the women for entry level positions with Curtiss-Wright so that men currently employed by the company could be promoted to more advanced positions. The Cadette program was similar to, but much less known than, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the United States Coast Guard Reserve (SPARS), and the Rosie the Riveter/ Wanda the Welder campaigns. The Engineering Cadette Program was started in 1943 at seven universities: Purdue University, Cornell, Pennsylvania State University, University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, Rensselear University, and University of Texas. During their time in the program, the women’s educational and lodging costs were covered by CurtissWright, and they received a $10 per week stipend. Classes were rigorous, with the women expected to dedicate a minimum of 50 hours per week to classes and study. The graduates of 1943 completed two and a half years of engineering curriculum in ten months, with subsequent graduating classes completing the work in even less time. Upon completion of the program, the women were assigned positions in one of five Curtiss-Wright facilities in the country, with varying roles and responsibilities. Once the war was over, the majority of the women were replaced by returning male soldiers, and it does not appear that the Curtiss-Wright Corporation kept is promise of additional funding for them to complete their engineering degrees. Many women did, however, subsequently complete degrees at universities nationwide and went on to various careers and roles within their respective communities.


MSA 195 finding aid, “History of the Curtiss Wright Cadettes”

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Mary Lou Schiltz papers on Purdue in World War Two

 Collection — Box: Communal Collections 66, Placement: 09
Identifier: MSA 370
Scope and Contents The collection contains several clippings, pamphlets and announcements belonging to Mary Lou Schiltz, who was a Home Economics student at Purdue during World War Two. Of particular interest are materials relating to the experiences of women students during this time, including: program material for the Work to Win Conference that was compulsory for women students, an article about the RCA engineering cadette program that was modeled after the Curtiss-Wright Cadettes, and other articles...
Dates: 1942 - 1943