City Cast

Magnesium Maggie: Nevada's Version of Rosie the Riveter

Adrian González
Adrian González
Posted on August 4
Helen Gung sits at a lab desk with various chemicals in beakers circa 1944.

Helen Gung was a graduate of UNLV and worked at the Raw Materials Laboratory in Henderson, Nevada. (Courtesy of Henderson Libraries)

Remember Rosie the Riveter, the badass icon who represented the working women of World War II? Did you know that Nevada had its own version? Her name is Magnesium Maggie and she’s a symbol of the strength of Nevada women during wartime.

Wartime Women

Sending a great number of men abroad to fight the war meant an increased demand for people to fill vacant jobs. That’s where the women of Nevada stepped in. The term “Magnesium Maggie” was coined by Irene Rostine, a wartime worker herself. The term pays tribute to the women in the southern Nevada workforce, the majority of whom worked at a magnesium plant in Henderson.

Equal Pay Equal Work

Like her sister Rosie the Riveter, Magnesium Maggie is born out of gender politics in wartime America, and here in Henderson, many of the working women enjoyed something that has been denied to them across the country for most of its history: the same pay as their male counterparts. While many industries took advantage of the loopholes in federal equal pay laws, companies like Basic Magnesium Industries paid women the same $.90 per hour that they paid men.

Thelma Lindquist in a warehouse restoring chlorine cells, circa 1944.

Thelma Lindquist, AKA “Chlorine Kate,” restoring chlorine cells at Basic Magnesium Industries in Henderson, Nevada. (Courtesy of Henderson Libraries)

Do you have a Magnesium Maggie story you’d like to share?

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