Graphic of the BEP Seal

Bureau of Engraving and Printing
U.S. Department of the Treasury

Pictured below: 15th street side of BEP building in Washington, DC with American flag in foreground.
Site Search

Making American History - Women Making History at the BEP and the Mint
Video of women making history at the BEP and the Mint
Women at Work: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing 
Women numbering and trimming currency, circa 1901

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.

Women trimming 18-subject currency sheets, circa 1952

For many women, the BEP also provided a path to professional advancement and leadership.  By 1864, there were at least 11 female supervisors at the BEP, overseeing numerous production operations.  Women began moving into executive positions in the early twentieth century.  In 1926, the first woman was promoted to superintendent in the Personnel Office.  By the 1950s, women headed Employee Relations, Wage and Classification, and Note Processing departments.  The first woman production head was appointed in 1975 in the Office of Security Processing.  Most recently, in 2007, a woman was named Deputy Director.  Never before had a woman held the number two position in the history of the BEP.

 

Women have been a part of the BEP since its inception.  As the agency grew so did the importance of women to its success.  Women helped unionize a growing workforce, oversee the production floor, and, later, direct the future of the BEP from the top echelons of management.