D.C. Mondays: Women "Plane Plotters" During World War II

A photograph showing three women in navy uniforms grouping together plotting points on a floor grid.
Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.


During World War II, a group of volunteer, civilian women manually plotted aircraft traveling through Washington, D.C., air space. Anne Dobberteen discusses this select group of women, known as the “Washington Plane Plotters,” who performed secret, unpaid, skilled labor under the supervision of male military officers. The officers relied on the plotters for an up-to-the-minute picture of the sky in order to activate defenses during a potential aerial attack. Through their work, the women learned to see their familiar city from above using a global grid. World War II homefront historians largely overlook their work with the Antiaircraft Artillery Command, as well as the national volunteer effort with which these Plane Plotters were affiliated, known as the Aircraft Warning Service (AWS).

About Anne Dobberteen

Anne Dobberteen is a Ph.D. candidate at George Mason University focusing on the visual culture of 20th-century U.S. cities. Her dissertation explores the aerial visual culture of Washington, D.C., and the surrounding region. As a public historian, Dobberteen has curated exhibitions, conducted oral histories, managed collections and done other public history and museum work at various organizations in Washington, D.C. She served as assistant curator of the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection at The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum from 2013-2018. This fall she begins a predoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

How to Participate

This program will take place on Zoom. To participate, please register online, and we will email you a link and instructions for joining. Simply follow that link at the time the program starts (12 p.m. EDT / 9 a.m. PDT). When you register, you can also request to receive a reminder email one day before the program with the link included.

About the D.C. Mondays Series

Join local authors, researchers and community members online for lively discussions about Washington, D.C.’s history, politics, culture and more. Browse upcoming programs