Abstract: At the remote secret Site Y, the burgeoning effort to create atomic weaponry was employing a growing workforce that ultimately reached 7,000. Employing the sparse NM population caused recruiters to search NM towns further and further afield. Fourteen young women in Las Vegas, NM, applied and fourteen were hired. At least 5 of them stayed on after the war to become strong contributors to the growth and vitality of Los Alamos today. Georgia Strickfaden had the privilege of interviewing them to learn their diverse and fascinating stories of coming here. It is fitting during Women’s History month that we look at a snap-shot of some of the women in the workforce of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. This project was originally prepared as a presentation for the 2014 NM State History Conference at NM Highlands University in Las Vegas.
Presenter Georgia Ann Wilder Strickfaden was born into nuclear age Los Alamos—in the old army hospital that blocked the extension of Central Avenue until 1952 when the current Los Alamos Medical Center was built. Her parents came to Los Alamos from Santa Fe in 1946 when her father, George Wilder, came for a job with the newly forming Zia Company after serving in the Army Air Corps during WW II in both Europe and the South Pacific. Graduating high school in 1966 as the last buildings of TA-1 were being removed from the Ashley Pond area, and the post WW II housing of Western Area, North Community and Eastern Area was being sold off, Georgia Ann was headed off to college, ultimately earning a BS in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, with a minor in her first love, History, from Eastern New Mexico University, in 1970 . A brief teaching career on the western slope of Colorado, and in the wild west Cochise County, AZ, she returned to Los Alamos to marry Gerry Strickfaden as he began his career at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. A brief stint as a public liaison with LANL for interviewees and their families convinced Georgia that she needed to be in a van showing all visitors to Los Alamos around, and telling the Los Alamos story. Buffalo Tours it was originally called when launched in 1985, and more recently AtomicCityTours, LLC. Her passion is still history and tourism. She’s a history nerd.
Photo from the Atomic City Tours website. That's Georgia in the van.