First woman to work what was once a man’s job at Quaker Oats in the 1940s turns 100

Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 5:33 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The first woman to work what was a male-dominated job in the 1940′s at Quaker Oats has turned 100.

Mabel Hovden (Blomgren) said she first started working at the company in Cedar Rapids in 1943.

”I worked in the packing department with a women’s job first,” Hovden, who now lives in Minnesota, said.

Hovden still has her pay stubs in pristine condition.

“I just saved those old things and I never, I stuck them away and forgot about them,” Hovden said.

Lynnferd Hovden, her boyfriend at the time, was away serving in World War II, as were many of the men who worked at Quaker Oats.

“They put a sign up for anybody wanting to take a man’s job and I signed that,” Hovden said.

It opened the door to trade her work dress in for pants.

“One day the foreman asked if I would like to try out for the vitamin room and I did,” Hovden said.

Hovden became the first woman to work in the vitamin room at the company. It was a big job that came with a pay raise to 75 cents per hour.

“It was to mix the vitamins that came in bulk,” Hovden said.

After measuring and mixing the vitamins, she would then take the solution and spray it onto cereal. All of this while greasing moving parts, and making sure the equipment was working right.

“At first were some 12-hour shifts, and later then they trained another girl,” Hovden said.

Eventually, there were other women working with her in the room. She and a group of women from Quaker Oats kept each other company while their significant others were at war. They shot guns, rode horses, had a bowling club, and went swimming in their free time.

Then in November of 1945, Hovden received a telegram from Lynnferd.

“Saying he’d be coming and I didn’t know what day so I took a leave of absence the first of December,” Hovden said.

Lynnferd arrived home from war the next day, marking the end of Mabel’s time at Quaker, but the beginning of their life together. The couple was married for almost 50 years. They had five children before Lynnferd passed away in 1995. Mabel says she is proud of the family they created.

“They’re just such loving and caring ones that it makes me feel special,” Hovden said.

Hovden turned 100 on February 5 and is the only sibling still living out of her 13 sisters and one brother.

“I just don’t think of me being 100 yet. Just everything goes so fast,” Hovden said.

Hovden’s family has already thrown her one party and is planning a second, much larger one in May.

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