A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.

5/04/2010

Women and the Workforce (1940-1950)


During the Second World War, millions of women left their posts at home and entered the workforce.  The demands put on American industry were immense, and with the men off fighting the war, women were needed to 'man' the factories. It was time to bring women into the workforce, and they were encouraged to go to work to help out with the war effort. So, the government teamed up with industry and with the media in an effort to encourage them to join the labor force because it was their 'patriotic duty'.  They were told that, if they could do housework, they most certainly could work in the factories for they would be using the same skills.  And, women were constantly reminded that their loved ones were in danger because they were not receiving the supplies that they needed.  

And, as a result of this propaganda, women DID enter the workforce, and they discovered that they COULD do the work. In fact, women joined the workforce in never seen before rates.  Then when America achieved victory in 1945, the women were expected to give up their jobs, that they could once again stay at home and take care of their families.  But, this wasn't enough for the women anymore, and the majority of women in the workforce did not want to give up their jobs.  Now, business leaders and the government now created reverse propaganda to convince women that it was their patriotic duty to give the men their jobs back. Women were now told that since the war was over, they should return to their traditional roles as housewives and mothers; they didn't need these jobs, the men did.  In fact, from the late 1940's to the early 1950's, there was tremendous pressure put upon women to accept their traditional roles...dependent of their husbands and committed to living their lives for their husbands and children. But, sometimes the campaign went too far.


One example of this were the ads which told women they should enjoy doing the laundry...and that they should take classes on how to be good housekeepers.  (A few days ago I posted about Home Economics classes of the past).  We can also see this propaganda in television shows such as "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver", shows where mothers are never shown as having a life of their own.  I grew up loving these shows, never realizing until I was grown how subordinate these television mothers actually were. Who knew???

Times had changed, though, and many women had no desire to return to their pre-war status for they had discovered that they could do things that they had always been told they couldn't do--balance a checkbook, run a household, maintain the car. And, as a result, women had become more assertive and confident; they were less dependent, and this troubled their husbands...and the government.  Women were warned that if they didn't stop working, another Great Depression would occur, that if women hadn't taken the jobs that rightfully belonged to men, the first one would never have occurred.  In addition, women were also told that they should show more respect for their husbands who had sacrificed so much in the war. 


However, even with the increasing success of the campaign, millions of married women in the 1950's continued to work...and millions more entered the workforce in the late 50's and early 60's.  Women were beginning to take jobs as soon as their children started school, and they worked for the rest of their lives. Women were expanding their roles, demanding more equality and respect from their husbands as they now had greater say in the family finances and in the marriage.

Clearly, the effects of the Second World War were to be felt for years to come.  With new opportunities coming their way, women were gaining a sense of independence and experiencing their own individuality.  The war had allowed women to make decisions and gave them the opportunity to fight for their rights.  Women were finally making progress. 

3 comments:

  1. This is such a great posting. My Mother was one of those women who went to work for the war effort. She even moved my brother and sister to another city in order to get a better paying job. She worked in a munitions plant in TN and then moved to Fla. to work in a production plant near Indian River. What an adventure. She never looked back at being a housewife. She worked until she was 71 years old.

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  2. Love this post, one of my favorite movies is about the women who played baseball "America's national past time" for the nation's benefit, only to be ditched after the war. The movie is "A League of Their Own".

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  3. good job with this info it really helped

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