Women at Work

Women have worked at 3M since its early years and have played ever more varied and diversified roles.

In 1916, the year the company made its first profits and began to pay dividends on its stock, there were only a handful of female employees.

That began to change in the 1920s, as women began to move into the packing and shipping departments of the abrasives factory.

As the company grew, women’s roles became more diversified. Office work became more complex as technology expanded. Women took jobs as typists, secretaries, stenographers, order processors, receptionists, and telephone operators.

Harriet Swailes was hired as a “general office girl” to work in the 3M office in Duluth in 1903. She moved with the company to Saint Paul in 1910, became a stenographer and then a secretary to William L. McKnight until 1928.

World War II provided new opportunities for women. In the 3M factories, women became involved in many steps of the production process.  Women became part of the research teams, helping to develop products, and joined the engineering department, studying productions methods.

Jenny Mogenson, hired in 1907 for the Chicago office, received the first 25-year service award wristwatch.

Kay Leary, a member of the tape stock department, was the first 3M woman to join the WAVES. She was soon followed by many of her sister workers into the WACS, WAVES, and other female support branches of the Armed Forces.

Lorraine Foss was hired in 1950 as assistant editor of the 3M Megaphone.

Patsy Sherman started working in the 3M labs in 1952. She was a co-inventor of “Scotchgard,” and was the first woman inducted into the Carlton Society, 3M’s prestigious award to company inventors and scientists. She was made a company manager in 1982.

Jessie Singleton, hired in 1925, managed the printing department for many years. She taught first-aid classes for the Red Cross and was a founding member of the 3M Band in 1938.