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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This does not mean that women were welcomed into industry with open arms and afforded the same rights and privileges of their male counterparts. Many companies still would not hire them and those that were hired were often given inferior jobs and pay. The romantic memory of "Rosie the Riveter" being accepted as "one of the guys" wasn’t always the case although many women did do more important and laborious work as the war progressed. Those who didn’t like women in important roles had to face the law of supply and demand. After all, who else was going to do these jobs?
So, the U. S. was in a full scale war. The men were filling the tanks and the trenches and the women took their places in the factories turning out war goods. It all sounds very simple except for one thing: who was minding the house and kids while the women were working 48 hours per week in the plants? Answer: the women were doing that too.
I’ll tell ya, you had to be tough to be a woman in the U. S. during World War II. Here is an example of the daily routine for many women in that 1941-1945 era: For starters, many women had to work at night in order to balance a home and family with a job as described by Doris Weatherford in her book "American Women and World War II". These women would get off work in time to get home and see their kids off to school. They would grab a quick breakfast, then clean up the kitchen. Then it was off to bed about 10:00 a. m. to sleep for an hour and a half until the kids came home for lunch. After cleaning up that mess it was back to bed and sleep a couple more hours until about 3:00 when the kids got out of school. She would then do laundry if there was time and cook dinner with the limited amount of war rationed supplies available. The family would then eat supper when her husband got home about 6:00 (if he worked in a war related industry and was not fighting). After supper she would clean the kitchen (again!), then take another nap before getting up and going to work at about 10:00 p. m. and start the cycle again. Husbands rarely helped in the chores as this was considered "woman’s work". Thus, the working housewife averaged about 5 to 6 irregular hours of sleep per day.
As World War II ended in 1945, the reaction of working women was mixed. For some, it was wonderful to leave their hectic schedule and return to the home full time again. Some wanted to continue work but didn’t because it was the assumption of society that they should leave the workforce now that they weren’t as necessary as before. Then there were those who enjoyed the new independence they had found through their wartime jobs and wanted to continue with the income they were used to even though they faced demotions and pay cuts in the post war era. One thing was certain: World War II jobs had given women confidence in themselves that they had never known before and laid the groundwork for the advancement and education of women in the workforce today. Hats off and a salute to Rosie the Riveter and the women of World War II!

4 comments:

EDM said...

Jim,
My Mother worked during the war years. She worked for a company called Spirella (sp), that made womens under garments. They made harnesses for parachutes. Webbing for backpacks, seat belts etc.
When she first came to this country, it was this same company that she first started with.
After the war the company stayed in business for little while longer then just disappeared. Do not know or remember who bought them out.

There were other women who worked the aircraft factories around Western New York; Bell, Curtis-Wright, Consolidated. Plus the various steel mills and other factories and chemical plants.

Roz B said...

Hi Jim,
I really like the new BLOG format/color etc. It is easier reading and softer presentation. Very good! As a teenagaer, I spotted planes and logged boat traffic from an Observation Post in South Bristol, ME (I did it in the summer assisting a regular) during the early war years when there was Nazi submarine traffic nearby. Boats and planes were tracked all along the Coast. The history here is very interesting and mid-westerners hardly were aware of the activity. That's as close as I can come to women working in World War II. Back in Cincinnati I collected War Stamps! --- Roz B

dave said...

Jim, your articles are fun to read. I'll show them to your Godson.
You remember , "Whisky Voice". Her Mom was a PILOT , did I say factory worker? did I say nurse? did I say cook? no PILOT in the second War World.
there were NOT very many and didn;t know if any of your readers knew what they were used for.

Anonymous said...

Again a TV show on A&E had all about women pilots in WW2. They were for ferrying service only, but Pancho Barnes was one of them [need i tell ya who she was?]There was a show of a chap who researches WW2 plane crashes.... there is an odd one where a gal took off in a P-51[!]from L.A., and was never heard from again.They interviewed Chuck Yaeger[he knows who Pancho is!].He said with the fuselage tank full it was hard to fly...