Opportunities for women were few and far between before World War II. For the most part, women during this time were homemakers that focused on their families. If they did work professionally outside of their homes, jobs were generally limited to secretarial work.
Following America’s entrance into World War II, day to day routines for women quickly began to change. As men shipped off to war, American women were left to take over jobs and positions that they had never before experienced. While this was surely an adjustment, it was also a significant step towards female empowerment.
Entering the workforce contributed to the development of various skill sets that many women did not have before the war. While men were away, women took over most of the male-dominated jobs in both white and blue-collar fields. According to History contributor, Annette McDermott, it’s estimated that about six million women joined the workforce to take over the civilian jobs that were left behind. Some of these jobs consisted of steel and lumber workers, taxi drivers, and government employees.
Women during World War II didn’t only take over civilian jobs, they also became military personnel. Close to 350,000 women served during World War II in areas like nursing and non-combat pilots. These military positions posed a danger for the women involved, even though they weren’t technically in active combat. In fact, many nurses during World War II worked near the front lines experiencing aircraft fire, artillery, and extreme weather conditions.
Fighting for Rights
The workforce wasn’t always a place for women before World War II. Many women that chose to help the war effort by working, experienced discrimination, extreme working conditions, and sexual harassment. This, however, didn’t stop them from performing and going above and beyond to prove their capability. Although women were expected to return to their regular duties as homemakers at the end of the war, many chose to remain in the workforce and continue their fight for equality. Nonetheless, those that returned to their home life, left their positions with new skills and a significant boost in confidence.