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Prior to World War 2 women had their basic household duties, clean, cook, take care of kids. These and other various activities were done by mostly women in that time period. But this could not last forever, something was bound to happen to make a shift in the daily life of a women. That event being World War 2. The women’s role in World War 2 are not as talked about and praised in todays world as much as the Male role. The male role in World War 2 was just as strenuous as the women’s role. But this effort and hard work done by women has not been recognized as much. Women during this time had left their families to learn and adapt to new skills, some filling what was considered male jobs. They also started organizations to help aid others during World War 2, this was just to list a few they just like men did a surplus amount of work in order to help their chances and others of survival of world war 2. So why is it that Women have not been given as much credit as men?
Women took on various roles of men 350,000 women served in the armed forces during world war 2. This a very large number of women to be serving in the armed forces. Especially since they are participating in the armed forces, while women were often portrayed as fragile or too feminine. This number wasn’t just limited to white women. Minority women served in war effort as well, African American women served in black-only units while it was segregated women of all races participated in the aid of World War 2. They put their lives on the line just as much as men did. What most would suspect for them to stay at home with the children and cook and clean all day, they instead went out and got their hands dirty in real workforce. In the armed forces they had their lives at stake but with great power they took on these roles. Like Mrs. Barbara Drew who “instead of her watching the children her husband did and she went out to volunteer”. Barbara Drew took the opportunity to go out and help. She knew exactly what was at risk but decided to take that risk and have her husband who would naturally be the one to go out and fight in the battle stay at home with the children. Almost like a role reversal. In an interview done by Casey Johnson Barbara Drew “as well as being a homemaker, Mrs. drew did volunteer work for civilian defense”. While making sure her children were taken care of, she also went out and helped with civilian defense. She explains in the interview: “She was taught how to evacuate children, elderly from coastal areas to mountains”. This was very important as many civilians were in the need of being transported from one area to another to ensure their survival. Her being able to do so shows how vital she was in the aid of World War 2. She was not alone in this she also explains how “Eight of nine of her friends would learn how to change tires on trucks and drove these army trucks.” She also explains how she was apart of an organization which “studied topography, mechanics, drove trucks”. These women together were able to for an organization in order to help others. Even though they may have not been on the field their roles were just as big with helping civilians endure world war 2.
Most women in the Labor force during world war II did not work in the defense industry majority took over factory jobs. As more and more men were off to combat factory jobs opened up. Women saw this opportunity and took it. Roughly 350,000 American women joined the military during world War II worked as nurses, drove trucks, performed clerical work to free up men for combat. In order to get more men in on the front lines there current jobs needed to be filled, this is where women came in and took care of that for them. One woman specifically Katherine O’Grady explains in a interview done by Kathy O’Grady her experience during world war II she “worked at a woolen mill, when the war started wool was very important.” Her job was vital as when the war had just begun it was needed more than ever. Katherine “was a mom as well, had a son and still worked at the mill each day.” This shows the duality of a women her and many women had families but still went out and put themselves to work in order to provide for their family but as well as others serving in the war. Katherine also discuss some information about how things were during wartime she explains that “beef was short, downtown people sold horse meat, bought a couple pounds and cooked a couple steaks.” This gives a little bit of insight of what life was during this time of war they had to resort to eating horse meat. She goes on to explain that after the war things changed for women as they could go out and they could survive. This was a big achievement for women as they weren’t seen as important enough or just really not good for anything else but staying at home with the kids. For them to be able to go out and live their lives just how men do. Katherine Grady who “Grew up in East Province, moved back to Boston…. Making her own money”. Katherine was able make her own money and sustain a life for herself which is a big step up and shows how much World war II had changed the role and how people perceive women.
Women not only participated in defense they had numerous occupations during war time. For example, Therese Bonney, Photographer from 1894-1978, images of homeless children and adults touched millions of viewers in the U.S and abroad. This occupation was important because civilians might have not known the effects of world war II, so it opened up a new side to the war. Taking off the blindfold of many people which helped bring more aid to people affected by the war. Some of images taken by photographers had great intentions for example, Frizzell’s images of elite corps of African American fighter pilots were intended to encourage positive public attitudes about the fitness of blacks to handle demanding military jobs. Because blacks were not seen as good enough to handle jobs as well as a white man could images taken by Frissell they were able to aid I helping change the mind of the public and letting people know blacks were just as capable as any white man. Toni Frissell, volunteered her photographic services to red cross, produced thousands of images of nurses, front line soldiers. Frissell was really able to live out the saying a picture is worth a thousand words. Her photographs were able to reach millions and help millions of people too. From bringing positive energy to capturing a very monumental moment in human history. Frizzell’s work supported the publicity objectives of her subjects, photographs devised to counter negative public perception of women in uniform. Again Frissell was able to progress women view in a positive way and really shine a new light on people’s perspective of women. She wasn’t the only one shining a new light on women, Therese Bomey published newspapers, magazines, one woman shows, films, etc., even a heroine of a wartime comic book. Her work showed that woman could play the hero and that they were just as important as anyone else. This was a very important realization.
Anne Bosanko was another woman who spoke about her experience in world war II. Anne Bosanko was a W.A, C private in 1945, her job was to “wash pipes, rafters, bed springs, polish. Her job was just as important as any others she explains how “little time to our selves40 minute classes, physical training, drill, indoctrination course. She explains it as ‘almost being in the army” and the conditions were almost as if they were in the army. Her and many other women endured this and played a very important role. Women were actively deployed in civil defense schemes as overnight fire watchers in factories, drivers, air raid wardens, etc. Because of assigned jobs women were at risk from bombing but were entitled to lower compensation for injuries, these women were at risk of potentially losing their lives but were not given equal compensation for it, this caused a uproar and “women went on a strike for a week in October 1943, agreement was met on a set wage. Women knew that they needed to be compensated and deserved the same pay as men, after all they were going through the same injuries as them why would their gender come in between the amount of compensation they get for it. Progressing forward even despite initial government opposition equal rates were introduced in April 1943. This was huge as women were finally getting equal rates and because the employment rate for women skyrocketed the need for nurseries increased, established 1345 nurseries.
In order to encourage women to stand and go out into the world a famous character was made her name being Rosie the Riveter. “Rosie the Riveter, was propaganda to reassure men that the demands of war would not make women too masculine.” (Salman khan Source 1) Men were worried that the war would change women so much that they would almost turn masculine. But because Rosie worked but also looked beautiful at the same time this reassured a lot of men that their women too would be the same. For women Bandanna-clad Rosie became one of the most successful recruitment in American history. Rosie was able to attract a lot of women into coming and getting their hands dirty. The campaign stressed the need for women to enter the work force, women were encouraged and inspired by Rosie to go and help with world war II. Only one thing was wrong with this whole situation. Although women were crucial pay was not good, rarely earned more than 50% of male ages. This was one of the biggest problems because women were doing the same work, they should too get paid the same amount of men.
In sum, both women and men of all colors and backgrounds were involved in world war II it was not just whites, or just blacks, or just women, it was every single one of us. Because of this both women and men should receive equal recognition and praise. Women did various things in order to fight in the war. They did not just become the typical nurse, they became fire watchers, pilots, drivers, and many more things. They were able to change millions of people’s perspective of women as a whole. Prior to this time women were child bearers, wives, homemakers. But women were able to change that and stand up and actually get their hands dirty in order to help millions. Both Men and women were truly vital in the aid of world war II not separately but equally together.
World War II began in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, which resulted in France and Britain declaring war on Germany. Initially, the United States wished to remain isolated from the war, but the United States officially entered World War II in 1941 after the Pearl Harbor attack in which Japanese planes dropped bombs over the naval port of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, to the complete surprise of the United States. With men sent off to fight abroad, women at home and abroad were given the opportunity of socioeconomic mobility: “When the demand for workers in manufacturing jobs far exceeded the supply of white males in the civilian economy, the number of occupations open to women and minorities expanded enormously” (Anderson 35). It is therefore worth investigating the extent to which World War II served as an opportunity for women to gain more prominence within both the social and economic spheres.
At first, employers were reluctant to hire women due to the persistent stereotype of women only being useful in the household. Even “in spite of government propaganda and the intensifying shortage of male labor, a surprising number of war plants continued to ignore women” (Breen 64). In addition, some women living in Mobile, Alabama did not even want to work outside the home, “as the majority of Mobile women declined to take even part-time jobs” (Breen 66). Also, though it was assumed that women would only be working non-traditional jobs for the duration of the war, many “housewives, manual laborers, and service workers were the least likely to have left the Ford firm voluntarily. Many of them stayed at the firm until they had to be laid off”. Women were forced to go back to their traditional roles they had before World War II started. Another problem for the implementation of work for women was the fact that they had busy work schedules. Some women’s schedules were too busy to fit in a labor intensive job, as they still had to take care of the house and the children. In these cases, women could not increase their participation in society or the economy even if they wanted to.
On the other hand, the increase in job openings led to a significant upsurge in the number of women working in the United States, starting at “10.8 million in March, 1941 to more than 18 million in August 1944” (Miller 42). Government agencies and private businesses recruited women to work in “defense plants and in heavy industry to provide the military with the necessary munitions and supplies”, and millions of women “left their jobs as waitresses, teachers, secretaries, and garment workers to become welders, riveters, assemblers, and inspectors” (Anderson 35). During the war, women assumed jobs that were traditionally held my men, such as working as accountants. Accountancy was considered to be a career for men, hence “women who graduated with accounting degrees in the 1940s found it very difficult to secure employment with public accounting firms”. However, accounting firms were forced to hire women during the war due to the shortage of male accountants: “accounting firms had lost 50 percent of their young male accountants and reported that firms had offset this loss with the hiring of women” (Wootton and Spruill 247). Due to a shortage in male employees, “in the twenty months, from September 1941 to May 1943, the number of women in 954 public accounting firms more than doubled, from 341 to 821 accountants”. In addition, “immediately after the war’s end, most women retained their positions in major accounting firms. In many cases, their numbers and responsibilities actually increased in the year following the war’s end. The reason for this was that men returning from the service and of the proper age to obtain an entry level accounting position did not have necessary college degrees” (Wootton and Spruill 247). However, as the oversupply of accountants increased and the demand for accounting services temporarily declined, many major firms elected to eliminate women when cut backs in personnel were needed” (Wootton and Spruill 247-248). In St. Petersburg, Florida, “white middle class women experienced a great expansion of economic opportunities during the war years, prompting politically active women to demand recognition for their labor and patriotic endeavors” (Babb 45). In Lowell, Massachusetts, “the 1940 census listed 38 percent of Lowell’s 35,000 women over age twenty in the workforce, double the national figure”.
Women’s participation in the war effort promoted the idea that women could contribute so much more to society than just limiting their sphere of influence to the home and to the family. In fact, “a survey taken at Ford shows in 1943 showed that women outproduced men and a major study of 174 firms in New York concluded that women’s productive efficiency was the same or better than men’s” (Kossoudji and Dresser 440). Thus, the image of a hard-working woman emerged in the public eye. For example, the famous “Rosie the Riveter” poster and other forms of propaganda inspired women to fill the positions of men while the men were fighting overseas. The “Rosie the Riveter” poster depicted a woman with her sleeve rolled up and her arm flexed with a slogan above her that reads, “we can do it!” The “Rosie the Riveter” campaign became a symbol of women’s independence.
A permanent shift had occurred for women as a social group after World War II: “for as early as 1948, the percentage of married women working was actually greater than in the peak war years” (Wootton and Spruill 248). At first, women were not paid nearly as much as men were, but “women’s wages rose substantially as occupational discrimination diminished”.
Overall, World War II allowed for women to play a more prominent role in society and in the workforce to a great extent. Many more job opportunities were made available to women than ever before since the men were off fighting in international countries. The women had to take up the jobs and responsibilities that the men had previously held, which led them to lead completely different lifestyles that they were unfamiliar with. Women’s contribution to the war effort caused the public to change its traditional view of women and opened its eyes to see that women are of great importance in society.
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