Research Papers on Women in World War II
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During World War II, stereotypes of the roles of American women in society and the workplace were broken. These women were the pioneers in blazing the paths for their descendants which cleared the way for women to leave their roles of homemakers and move into the national economy.
In the pre-war era, during the Great Depression, women were chained to positions as housewives. The scarce jobs were given to men over women. If women could procure any work at all, it was for practically nothing compared to men. In an interview, Mildred Chatalian stated, "At the time, because of the Depression, I worked as a maid on the East Side. I had one day off a week, and my pay for the entire week was $2.00." Helen Vico, when she was forced to work to supplement her father’s income, but he made $40.00 per week. But more importantly, laws and corporate policy prohibited married women from holding jobs. School districts refused to hire married women and fired those who married. Corporations limited the amount of married women on staff. “War very much became a doorway through which women ventured out of the homes where they had been confined."
Specific Jobs Women Held
But in 1941, with defense industry jobs unfilled, the government created campaigns to attract women into the workforce. The Department of Labor created job-training programs. Although ethnic discrimination was barely curtailed by legislation, by the time that was declared, women of color were also making significant advances into the economy.
It was not only through the workplace, but also through the Office of Civilian Defense that used over ten million volunteers in jobs such as the following:
- First-aid instruction
- Aircraft spotters
- Factory workers
- Folding soldier's laundry
- Military assembly workers
Helen Vico, began her exodus into the wartime workforce by folding laundry as a volunteer.
Women Surpassed Men in Certain Skills
By late 1941, women were producing dive bombers, time fuses, and ammunition. Labor studies showed that women surpassed men in a number of skills. Women had mixed feelings about their work. Some refused to work, some were ashamed for various reasons. Some needed the work desperately, some were very proud. For example, Harriet Williamson, a widow with their children, was the highly photographed welder who christened a war ship with a bottle of champagne. Her husband was killed while working in a munitions plant.