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Western Electric Hawthorne Studies Collection
Catalog Record
Mss 583 1924-1934
Cartons 1-3; boxes 16 and 17

Western Electric undertook a large study of worker productivity between 1924 and 1933 at its Hawthorne, Illinois, Electrical Works, initially in partnership with the National Research Council, and later the Harvard Business School. The "Hawthorne Studies Collection," as it is known today, consists of reports, research papers, and interviews relating to the study, and includes some 300 employee interviews. Much of the material is about women workers, and many of the interviewers were women.

One of the hallmarks of this study is that, in its second phase, Western Electric and the Harvard Business School team led by Elton Mayo sought to control the study by establishing several "test" environments within the plant. For instance, the Relay Assembly Test Room (RATR, 1927-1932) had wage incentives and the Mica Splitting Test Room (MSTR) did not. Moreover, the scope of the study was expanded to discover relationships between working conditions, industrial productivity, and such additional variables as worker morale, home life, upbringing, diet, and other habits. This was largely achieved through guided and open-ended interviews and transcripts of test room conversation. Between 1928 and 1930, approximately 21,000 employees of the Hawthorne Plant granted interviews to the research team.

Though the designers of the study were not specifically interested in gender issues, both the RATR and the MSTR were staffed by women. The study produced extensive records of interaction between workers, interviews about work and life, and raw data for productivity statistics. The workers' names were and are protected.

Some comments by women workers:

I am pretty well satisfied with Western Electric. When I first came here I went to night school. I took up a business course and I finished it at the Hawthorne Club Evening School. When it came time to quit I changed my mind and now that I am married I don't care. Some time I might be able to make use of my course.

Interviews (Special), with verbatim reports and comments, 1929. Carton 1, folder 26

(About lay-offs)

Oh no, the worst is past. If we lose our jobs, we'll go to Detroit and make cushions for 40 or 50 cents an hour. Don't worry [name], you can get up early Saturday morning and get a grind organ and cup and make money that way.

If things get too bad, I'll get married so I won't have to worry about working so much.

Operator 3, Thursday 5-8-30. RATR operator comments, 1927-1930. Carton 3, folder 27

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