Feminine Mystique

This essay has a total of 727 words and 4 pages.

Feminine Mystique

The Postwar effects on Women
The “feminine mystique” that American culture promotes is entirely dependent
upon its ideas, beliefs, and needs of the time. American culture has always tended to
influence women into doing what the day and age required. After men went to war there was
a gap in the work force that needed to be filled. During World War II women were the most
available to join the work force. Due to the discouragement to raise families during the
Great Depression and the fact that most men of age had entered the war, many women were
left without families to look after and men to take to take care of them. “Most
women toiled at unskilled jobs; most were young, single, and without children”
(307). This lack of family and funds left women with no other place to go besides the
factories. Women’s need for work was nursed along by the media as well as the

“A rapidly expanding war economy absorbed most of the reserve labor force,”
(307) yet it still was not enough, the economy demanded a larger work force. This demand
worked in cooperation with the availability of the women of the time.
“’Commando Mary’ and ‘Rosie the Riveter’ became symbols of
women who heeded their country’s call” (307). There were many enticements
luring women to join the work force. These enticements included higher war wages, more
available time and opportunity to work, and wartime restrictions on leisure activities.

“Despite the general expectation that women would return to their home after the
war, female laborers did not simply drop their wrenches and pick up frying pans”
(310). After the war many women continued to work outside the home primarily to help
support their families. After the war 28% of the labor force was female compared to the
24% prior to the war. When the war was over nearly one million women were laid off and
another 2.25 million voluntarily left. These female losses in the work force were offset
by the gain of 2.75 million women into the work force. “When women who had been
laid off managed to return to work, they often lost their seniority and had to accept
reduced pay in lower job categories” (310). Due to the severe segregation by
gender, the postwar economic life for women was appalling.

Postwar American life became organized around marriage and family. As men came back from
the war they merged with the peacetime economy, taking jobs away from women and sending
them back to the home. With the demise of Mary and Rosie came new role models whose ideas
and beliefs were focused around the home and not the workplace. This was due to the fact
that during the war many writers were female and supported involvement in the labor force
and after the war many of these women’s jobs were taken by men with the desire of a
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