Women’s History Month - Women War Workers at the Reliance Tipple

Top: A black and white side shot of the Reliance Tipple, made of corrugated metal. Train cars in various states of being filled with coal sit on tracks beneath portions of the tipple. Bottom: Annie Krek, Christine Cukale, Zabia Mangelos, and Sumiko Hattori in work wear stand at a conveyor built sorting coal from the surrounding rock.

Photo 1 - The Reliance Tipple in Sweetwater County, one of only two coal tipples still standing in Wyoming. The “boney pickers” at the Tipple in 1943 are, left to right, Annie Krek, Christine Cukale, Zabia Mangelos, and Sumiko Hattori.


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - March 26, 2024)     The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is continuing its celebration of Women’s History Month with a wonderful photo from World War II, when women entered the civilian workforce as millions of men were called to serve in the armed forces. The women in the photo are “boney pickers” on the job in 1943 at the Reliance Tipple.

Tipples were large structures used to sort and load coal. Coal was transported from the mines to the Tipple in four-ton capacity rail carts. When the carts arrived at the upper level of the Tipple, the coal was dumped into a chute by tipping the mine carts over – hence the name “tipple.” The coal passed down the chute and was sorted by size when it passed through heavy shakers and screens, then loaded onto train cars.

From Sweetwater Women, by Christine Alethea Williams and Brigida R. Blasi:

“Boney Pickers

“Because the Wyoming State Constitution barred women from working underground in coal mines until 1979, women were employed only above ground in Union Pacific mining occupations during World War II. Boney (slate) pickers worked in the tipple, separating waste rock from coal. They joined the United Mine Workers of America union and started working as pickers of slag, apprentice electricians, welders, and machinists in the shops.”

Sweetwater Women profiles over 100 women with important places in Sweetwater County history. It’s available at the County Museum’s bookstore and on Amazon.