Women in World War II

World War II was very significant for the Women’s Rights Movement. It created many opportunities for women. Women played an important role in WWII both at home and in uniform.


Reluctant to enter the war when it erupted in 1939, the United States quickly committed itself to total war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This dedication involved the utilization of all the assets of America, including women. On the other hand, the Axis powers were slow in using women in their fighting industry. Hitler derided Americans as degenerates for putting their women to work. He claimed that the position of German women was to be good wives and mothers.


When the war started, fast weddings became the standard when young people married their sweethearts before their men went abroad. Women on the Home Front served in military factories as men worked overseas, as well as overseeing homes, and volunteering for war-related organizations. In New Orleans, women also became streetcar operators for the first time, with the growing demand for public transport. When men left, women became 'skillful cooks and household workers, handled the finances, learnt to repair their cars, served in a defense factory, wrote letters to their soldier husbands that were consistently upbeat. Rosie the Riveter helped assure that the Allies would have the war materials they needed to defeat the Axis. Nearly 350,000 American women served in uniform, both at home and abroad, volunteering for the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later renamed the Women’s Army Corps), the Navy Women’s Reserve, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, the Women Air Force Service Pilots, the Army Nurses Corps, and the Navy Nurse Corps. General Eisenhower believed that without the assistance of the women in uniform he could not win the war.


Women in uniform took office and clerical jobs in the armed forces in order to free men to fight. They repaired airplanes, rigged parachutes, served as radio operators, analyzed photographs, and even trained anti-aircraft artillery gunners by acting as flying targets. In the Philippines, 68 American Service Women were detained as POWs. About 1,600 nurses were awarded for courage and meritorious service, and 565 Women's Army Corps in the Pacific Theater won combat decorations.


Many people feared that after men came back from war there would not be any jobs for them, so women were forced to go back to their “rightful place” even though a majority of women wanted to keep their jobs. Although women’s work in the war is often overlooked, they contributed enormously to war.


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