World War II as a Time of Opportunities for American Women
World War II was the catalyst that changed the opportunities available to women and eventually the way they were regarded as a viable workforce. Suddenly women throughout the United States were pushing themselves to their limits to support the war effort. Women were fulfilling jobs and responsibilities that many previously believed to be impossible for their gender. Opportunities were opened in steel plants, ammunition factories, and even the United States military. As the war progressed the number of male workers declined dramatically. Society had no choice but to turn to the mothers, sisters, and daughters of our nation for help. The results for each woman varied but the nation was to be forever changed in how it looked at women in the work force. Although employment opportunities after the war were significantly reduced for women due to the return of the male soldiers, the effort and abilities women displayed during these difficult times had far reaching effects. Women's actions in small communities like the Hunter Chemical Plant in Huntsville, Alabama and Bridge and Steel Industrial Plant in Mt Vernon, Ohio changed the way men viewed their physical abilities. The creation of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) resulted in changing the way the government viewed women as a viable asset and led the way for the women who serve proudly in today's military. In this paper I will address the change in the attitudes of society and the way small communities and the government itself viewed the physical capabilities of women.
In order to fully recognize and appreciate the changes which occurred in the working environment during this time, we must first understand the employment situation in the United States prior to World War II. ?Government intervention during the depression had mainly given jobs to men, especially in the ?better? jobs like teaching, civil service. Men worked in manufacturing and dominated the professions. Women did clerical work, or worked on the lower scale in a factory, or worked as domestics in other people?s homes.? (Dr Strom and Wood, pg. 1) More married women were at work in the 1930?s than in the 1920?s but they held the lowest paying jobs.
Society at this time did not view women as equals and the pay they received reflected this attitude. ?In 1939 male teachers made an average salary of $1,953 while female teachers were paid a mere 1,394; male social workers averaged $1,718 while their female counterparts received a salary of $1,442. There was an expectation that women worked until they married then their husband would support the family.? (Chafe, pg. 63) This attitude was seen in the salaries women throughout America received prior to and during the early part of the war in small communities and the United States Government.
Even when faced with a shortage of man power most factories were reluctant to...