Female employees have worked at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) since its inception in 1862, operating hand-cranked machinery that trimmed and separated currency notes. According to some accounts, the BEP began with four women and two men working in the basement of the Treasury building.
Few specifics are known about the first women employed by the BEP in the 1860s. These early female employees of the Treasury and the BEP were young, single women known during the time as “Treasury Girls”; although, some of the women were the wives or widows of Union soldiers.
As the BEP grew in the 1870s and 1880s, women assumed additional production tasks. They operated seal presses, counted and inspected sheets, wetted paper, and worked as printers’ assistants.
Recognizing their shared interests and concerns, women employees also began to organize; and, in 1909, Gertrude McNally Steward formed the Women’s Union, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which provided medical and insurance benefits. This union affiliated with the National Federation of Federal Employees in 1918.