Women's Role in World War 2: Courage in The Face of Adversity

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 850 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Apr 17, 2023

Words: 850|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Apr 17, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Inrtoduction
  2. Prior to the war
  3. During the war
  4. After the war/impacts of the war
  5. Significant women in WW2
  6. Nancy Wake
    Susan Travers
    Noor Inayat Khan
  7. Conclusion


This essay explores the significant changes in women's role in World War 2, emphasizing the impact of their participation in the workforce and highlighting the heroism of women such as Nancy Wake, Susan Travers, and Noor Inayat Khan. Overall, the position of women in society was transformed by their contribution to the war effort, leading to greater respect and recognition of their capabilities beyond traditional gender roles, as evidenced by the increase in women working outside of the home and managing their finances independently after the war. Therefore, the women's role in World War II essay is crucial in understanding the significant societal changes brought about by this global conflict.

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Prior to the war

In 1940, close to 25% of women working outside of home. However, their professions remained very feminine; paid labour consisted of things like typing or sewing. Women faced quite strict social expectations. They were expected to be neat, quiet, and tidy. Their main roles consisted of duties in the home and taking care of their children. They did not participate in jobs which involved intensive manual labour or required a higher level of education. Despite women filling men’s working roles in WW1, their positions in society had not been greatly affected and they remained restricted. This was all changed by WW2.

During the war

When the war began, men were abandoning their jobs as builders and farmers to go and fight for their countries in the army. This meant the women at home had to step up and do the men’s work in order to keep society functioning. Quick marriages became the norm as people realized they may not have the chance to marry again – so girls married their high school sweethearts.

In the workplace, women proved themselves more than capable of doing what had been considered ‘men’s work.’ Many historians have described this as almost a repetition of women’s events in WW1, where similar stereotypes existed limiting women to light work and little manual labour. There was a concern for men’s pay becoming less as women took over certain roles and trade unions assured the public the fill-ins would end with the war. Around 350,000 women served in the armed forces, in roles like nurses and truck drivers. Over 1600

of female nurses received medals for their courage whilst being attacked. Around 6 million joined the civilian workforce in WW2 and filled roles such as:

  • streetcar operators
  • taxi drivers
  • construction workers
  • steel workers
  • lumber workers
  • munitions workers
  • agriculture workers
  • government workers
  • office workers

During their time in the workforce, women encountered harassment, poor working conditions, and low pay. They struggled to look after their children and work. Childcare services were costly and unreliable. They faced sexual harassment in the workplace. They were paid very little in comparison to their male counterparts.

After the war/impacts of the war

After the war society’s view of women had shifted considerably. By 1950, roughly 32% of American women were working outside the home, and only 50% of those were married. After the shift in perception in WW1, WW2 only further solidified the idea that women were more than capable of being part of the workforce.

Significant women in WW2

WW2 produced countless female heroines. Among them were Nancy Wake, Susan Travers, and Noor Inayat Khan.

Nancy Wake

Nancy Wake was married to an extremely wealthy French man when the war broke out. Without hesitation, she began working for the French Resistance, where she assisted men in hiding and escaping France. This led to her being captured and interrogated, but she gave nothing away. After being held for a few days she managed to escape to Britain in 1943.

Susan Travers

Part of the French Foreign Legion - fought German soldiers from a fort for 15 days. When supplies and food grew scarce, she and the General she fell in love with escaped by racing their truck through the desert whilst under heavy fire from the Germans. By leading this daring dash, she assisted in saving the lives of 2,500 other French soldiers. She received many prestigious awards for her bravery and quick thinking.

Noor Inayat Khan

Escaped to England when the Germans invaded France and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and trained as a wireless radio operator. Worked as a Special Operations Executive under the code name “Madeleine.” In 1943 she was betrayed and arrested by the Gestapo – incredibly violent, fascist Nazi police. She was sent to a concentration camp, held in solitary confinement, and tortured for information. When she refused to reveal anything, she was shot in the back of the head, and her last word was believed to be “Liberty.”

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In conclusion, the events of WW2 clearly had a great impact on the position of women within society; the way they are perceived, and the way they perceive themselves. WW2 allowed women to prove to themselves and to the rest of society their capabilities within a variety of different working fields, giving them the confidence and freedom to gain employment outside of the home and manage their finances independently. This shift also earned them greater respect within society on a wider scale, something which only increased as the years went by, and hopefully will continue to in the years to come.  

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Women’s Role in World War 2: Courage in the Face of Adversity. (2023, April 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Women’s Role in World War 2: Courage in the Face of Adversity.” GradesFixer, 17 Apr. 2023,
Women’s Role in World War 2: Courage in the Face of Adversity. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jul. 2024].
Women’s Role in World War 2: Courage in the Face of Adversity [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Apr 17 [cited 2024 Jul 17]. Available from:
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