american Women During WWII




American Women During World War II.

America\'s entry into World War II posed opportunities for American women domestically, yet paradoxically heightened fears in the polity about the exact role that women should adopt during wartime. A central issue that dominated women\'s lives during this period was how to combine the private sphere of the home, with the new demands of the war economy in the public sphere. Women made significant gains in the military, the war economy and in some cases, in terms of political influence. Yet these gains were misleading for policy makers utilised the female workforce for short-term gains during war, with a long-term goal of seeing women return to the domestic sphere and reinforcing traditional gender roles. Significantly also, American women encountered different experiences of life during World War II since factors such as ethnicity and class largely shaped how women responded to, or were affected by the Second World War.
Owing to the critical demand for labour, employers during the war helped to break down traditional gender roles by recruiting women to traditionally male jobs. Government, industry and the media all encouraged women to serve their patriotic duty by taking a job. Throughout the war however, policy makers sent out ambiguous messages to women about what their "proper" role in American society was. The motive behind this ambiguity rested in the fact that the government feared that the long-term consequences of women in the workplace, since gender roles could permanently be disrupted if women became reluctant to return to the domestic sphere when men returned from war. Many governmental agencies aimed to hinder sweeping changes for American women during the war- particular attention was placed on women in the military. Business associations largely worked independently from the polity, and tensions emerged when women\'s organisations highlighted the discriminiatory practices of employers. Unions were also a highly important source of oppression to American women, for men feared that women would gain too much power if...Gender AND WORK BOOK. Moreover, the social and political fear of women in the workplace was largely confusing anyway, for women had worked outside the home in huge numbers ever since the Depression.
And yet, after Pearl Harbor , the government issued non-discriminatory directives to recruit women into the workforce since by 1942 , only 29 percent of America\'s fifty-two million women had jobs. Thus, the War Manpower Commission ( WMC ) was established to actively recruit women so that in the beginning of 1943 " the shortage of workers had toppled many sex, race, and age barriers." By 1944 , married women constituted the majority of the female workforce at 72.2 percent, and the issue of married women at work revealed the contradictions of " womanpower". At the heart of this dilemma was the fear in the polity that women would become too attached to their new found economic independence, since women were told by industry on the one hand that " (the) American homemaker...has the strength and ability to take her place in a vital War industry;" yet through the government backed WMC women were told through pamphlets that : " Even in a national emergency as critical as this, the welfare of our children must be of paramount importance..." Implicit in these war messages was the notion that women were contributing to the war economy out of duty to their children and/or their male loved ones fighting in the war. Therefore , in the immediate economic crisis created by World War II , government and industry had little option but to actively seek female employment, although in the long-term, the government, through its propaganda messages, revealed its long-term aim of seeing women return to their "natural" domain in the home.
Many women reconciled this tension by arguing that work outside the home satisfied family needs by providing financial security. Work outside the home was also appealing because it provided emotional bonding between women whose loved ones were fighting abroad. Yet although the war raised living standards, women\'s long-term position in the workplace was not guaranteed. When women came to plants they faced hostility from male co-workers, and cases of sexual harassment at work were commonplace. Women who worked in factories for example , presented a challenge to gender roles,