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Lillian Ruiz Ms.Degulis History 9 4/12 How Were Women Affected by World War II on the American Homefront?

Womens role in the United States alternated due to industrial and social changes. Before the war, women seldom had influence over industrial society and were relegated to domestic chores. The war presented an opportunity to escape the constraints of their domestic lifestyle. This progress, however, proved short-lived, and most women lost the jobs they had gained during the war. Despite these challenges, World War II helped lay the foundation for future social and economic independence. Women were always encouraged to pursue a life of traditional values and expectations before the war. The common idea of housewife, care-taker, and having dinner always ready were constrained on women long before they made their vows. Before the war, women were expected to be subservient to men, married or not. It was difficult for women to find jobs because either men were prioritized or they were judged for wanting to have a life outside of their homes. Also, a womans abilities were concealed until they were needed during the war and because of this; many were ignorant towards how useful and beneficial women could be. One magazine article said, We as a nation must change our basic attitude toward the work of women, but it wasnt until the actual war started when society began to change their mentality (Foner 1). During the war, women were able to rise from their previous standard of living. Most men were serving in the military, giving women an opportunity to take on most of their jobs. Many of these jobs consisted of working at military units, factories, government positions or basic employment. This shift made women feel more liberated,

considering the fact that they werent home at all hours. Women liked the feeling of confidence, self reliance and independence. Soon after, a famous icon spread quickly throughout the United States- Rosie the Riveter. She represented women who worked in factories and typically depicted as a strong confident woman, yet still retaining her attractive appeal. Industrial jobs and this new social change gave women power and a voice. Not only were single women admitting to jobs, but married women with families began to seek out employment. Glamour Girls of 43, a government newsreel, mentioned, Instead of cutting the lines of a dress, this woman cuts the pattern of aircraft parts. Instead of baking a cake, this woman is cooking gears to reduce the tension in the gears after use (Rosenzweig et al. 523). More families could take advantage of clinics, hospitals and education because of their new jobs. For the first time, women had economic power thanks to their elevated wages. Women were satisfied with the power they now held and the new status they recently acquired, but the media shortly changed the minds of many by negatively depicting womens influence over society. Government workers and unions viewed laboring women as just a temporary necessity, which could be done away with after the war. They didnt like that women were getting too comfortable with the idea of maintaining a good job and an adequate wage while men were at war. A Union Publication said, There should be a law requiring the women who have taken over mens jobs to be laid off after the war(Foner 1).These people liked to remind women that their hard work and labor was temporary and there should be no getting used to. Surprisingly, most factories segregated jobs according to sex. Also, women were at times taunted and discouraged by other men working in the factories. Employers relegated

women to jobs in the factory that were menial; this was to avoid paying them higher wages. The media then propelled an image of working mothers as a blame for juvenile delinquency. This image stressed to society that their children werent raised in good hands. After the war, the media stressed the idea of a traditional family being the center of society once again. Women would be needed at home to care for the children, and to prepare dinner while her husband came back from work. Also, advertisers made women seem less attractive if they still held a factory job. Women no longer wanted to be pictured in an industrial society; the men were ready to return to their previous routines before the war. Womens roles in the factories were viewed as just temporary input for military victory but not a road to their full independence. Aircrafts and war supplies were not going to be produced in such large quantities anymore because the war ended, resulting in many women getting laid off. Men were legally assured to be retreated to their previous jobs and veterans were given priority over women. Women, although they were just viewed as a substitution until men returned, still had a sense of empowerment and authorization. Many women felt as if their contributions to society werent over just yet and felt the need to take action against this social inequality. One woman who advocated womens rights at the University of Pennsylvania said: This is a far cry from only one hundred and fifty years ago, when in the entire world there was not one woman college graduate, not one woman who could vote or hold public office and not one married woman who could collect her own wages or call her legal soul her own. (Tree par. 3)

Government committees supporting women made day-care programs accessible to mothers who lost their husbands during the war and needed money to provide for their families. Even if women could not be of use to society in the industrial business after the war, many women pursued an education by either completing their high school requirements or going off to college. Obtaining an education informed women about what was going on in society, how it could be changed and why it had to change. After the war, women went on strikes, whether to fight against inequality, labor injustices, or sexism. Although women were not as appreciated for their contributions to society promptly after war, they influenced women to strive for a more balanced and equal society. At first, society still depicted women as Susie the Homemaker; this image later transferred into Rosie the Riveter. Just as the war was ending, the media emphasized the idea that woman had to go back to their Susie the Homemaker roles in society, just as men would return to their previous lives before the war. Women were not ready to let go of their competency, therefore many pursued education. Their war effort and sacrifices paved the way for future womens right advocacy.

Works Cited Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty: An American History. Vol. II. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005. Print. Goldfield et al. The American Journey. Vol II. New York: Person Education. 2007. Print Litoff,Judy Barrett and David C. Smith. American Women in a World at War. No.1. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.1997. Print. Tree, Marietta Peabody. Quotations from Women at Penn 1940-1949 University History. University of Pennsylvania Achieves and Records Center, 1995-2012. Web. 18. April. 2012 Rosenzweig et al. Who Built America? Working People and the Nations History. Vol II. New York: Bedford/St.Martins. 2008. Print.

Acknowledgments I first chose to write about women because I am very fond on learning more about how women evolved throughout the years. I knew that women were greatly appreciated during the war for their efforts and I wanted to learn more about it and how it affected their lives after the war. My brother, David Ruiz, helped me organize my thoughts on note cards and showed me how to prep for gathering sources and ideas. Also, talking about my subject with Ms.Degulis made the writing process easier because she helped me break down the main ideas. My brother helped me to make my sentences less awkward and told me to stop using my first grade vocabulary. He also suggested words to use that would work better with the flow of my sentences and also gave me grammatical pointers.

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