The Library will be closed on Monday, May 27, 2024, in observance of Memorial Day.

Celebrating Women's History Month With the Canoga Rockettes

Christina Rice, Senior Librarian, Photo Collection,

The post-War era brought exponential growth to the San Fernando Valley, transforming the region into the quintessential suburbs. Much of this development was enabled by the aerospace industry and facilities such as Rocketdyne and JPL, which were located in the Valley and provided jobs for countless residents in surrounding communities. In an era where employment opportunities still tended to be limited for women, aerospace afforded them expanded opportunities. In 1959, the Valley Times newspaper featured many of Rocketdyne's female employees who held a variety of positions. The paper also noted that the Canoga Park facility employed 2,260 women at the time. The Los Angeles Public Library is fortunate enough to be the custodians of the Valley Times photo archive, which we have furiously been digitizing. In honor of Women's History Month, here's a closer look at the women we have affectionately come to call the "Canoga Rockettes," aka the women of Rocketdyne.

Betty Edwards

Photograph caption dated February 4, 1959 reads, "Electrifying Designer - Betty Edwards of Canoga Park is UCLA engineer. Her work is designing installation of electrical utilities throughout Rocketdyne facilities in Valley. Women play important part in company's space age."

Thelma Batchlor

Photograph caption dated February 4, 1959 reads, "Lead Woman Insures Live Wires - Thelma Batchlor of Woodland Hills, 10-year veteran with North American Aviation, is lead woman in Rocketdyne electrical group supervising in wiring of junction boxes used in rocket engines that power nation's biggest ballistic missiles. There are 2,260 women at Valley plant who are backing space effort."

Nasira Wilkins

Photograph caption dated February 4, 1959 reads, "Deals In Powerful Ideals - Nasira Wilkins of Los Angeles is graduate of Howard University with master's degree in physics. She spends her Rocketdyne hours studying new liquid propellant rocket engine concepts."

Shirley Smith

Photograph caption dated February 4, 1959 reads, "Job Varies By Degrees - Shirley Smith, of Woodland Hills, holds Master's degree in Mechanical engineering. She is specialist in heat transfer designing tubes that brave temperatures of 5,000 degrees."

Eva Major

Photograph caption dated February 4, 1959 reads, "Translates Ideas To Paper - Eva Major of Granada Hills makes drawings of structural detail of many Rocketdyne engines. She is one of 132 artists and illustrators employed at West Valley installation."

Norma Sutton

Photograph caption dated February 4, 1959 reads, "From Kitchen To Chemistry - Rutgers University graduate Norma Sutton of Van Nuys is research chemist at Propulsion Field Laboratory. She belongs to team of scientists who analyze rocket fuel that powers engines."