February 27, 2011

Women of World War II

Rosie the Riveter by J. Howard Miller

I was a very little girl when on December 7th 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor launched the people of the United States  into World War II and out of the Depression. The state's industrial cities and shipyards sprang back to life to meet wartime demand for munitions, ships, and military supplies. But with men leaving to enlist, there was a sudden labor shortage; women stepped forward  taking their place on assembly lines. In many towns across the country, where women had traditionally worked unskilled jobs for low wages, new opportunities grew.

These opportunities offered  independence, self-respect, and money. At the end of the war, many women lost their jobs to returning G.I.s, yet others, armed with new skills, remained. The number of working women never again fell to pre-war levels. Some women who were not retained in their jobs  fought industrial management when told they would be replaced by G.I.s returning from war. They had earned their place in industry and in history.  However, doors that the war had opened for women workers slammed shut. While the number of American women in the workforce continued to grow, it would take decades, and a series of law suits, to restore the occupational opportunities WW II had created.

During the war  industries throughout the country looked for new ways to increase their much needed labor force.  To counter the problem the government launched a propaganda program that would bring women to work in mills and factories throughout the land  They promoted the fictional character of  Rosie the Riveter.  Posters of  Rosie depicted her as pretty but equal to her beauty was that she was very patriotic, here loyality and efficiency were unequaled.  Many women who worked in the factories to help the war effort would call themselves "Rosies".

In Massachusetts, the mill towns were humming and work was plentiful as materials were woven for military uniforms.  The war brought about a sort of revolution where women were concerned.  Women from all society classes went to work and when the men returned after the war there were now men and women working side by side in the factories and mills.  So many women in the work force had never been heard of prior to the war.

Back from the war, men were working mostly in jobs held by women during the war.  In addition to that, the G.I. Bill of rights that provided G.I.s  returning from the war with the opportunity to go to college and advance their careers helped  to create the middle class.  The government gave billions of dollars to the G.I. Bill as well as to Veterans Administration. home loans.  The middle class was something as new as the "suburbs" that we would come to know.

Everyone who applied did not receive a first time loan to buy a house so did not have the opportunity to move to the new suburbs.  They remained in the city tenements, sometimes in broken down tenements of  the ghetto.  Businesses in the center of cities were growing pushing many of these tenants into a different kind of city life...  generations to come would be trapped in this situation.  Meanwhile those who could buy a home experienced a new sense of freedom and pride in ownership.  They were proud owners of a home in the suburbs where their children could roam and play unafraid of what was happening in the crowded cities they left behind.

Post World War II experienced the creation of a new chapter in the American life style.  It was no longer a choice of living an urban a way of life or a rural way of life.  People now had a choice of living an urban, rural or suburban way of life.

Suburbia grew thanks to the highway system created under President Eisenhower in the 1950's.  Now anyone who could own a car and hold a job in the city could commute and return to the peace and quiet of the suburbs at day's end.

My mother, grandfather aunts and uncles were working in the mills during World War II.  Many of them were weavers and when I would  hear them talk about their work, they took great pride in weaving a good cloth that would later be made into uniforms for the men and women in our armed forces.

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Lucie's Legacy
Lucie LeBlanc Consentino

6 comments:

Yvonne said...

Lucie, I love reading your blog, and I have chosen you to receive the "One Lovely Blog" Award. You can find out more at my blog: The Mashburn Collection.

http://www.themashburncollection.com/2011/03/i-love-these-things.html#axzz1GXLouMiA

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you so much Yvonne.. I feel very honored to received this award from you.

Lucie

Ginger Smith said...

Hi Lucie, I have really enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for taking the time to post your stories! I have chosen you to receive the "One Lovely Blog" award. You may stop by my blog to see the rules that go along with accepting this award. Ginger

mjhellman said...

Hi Lucie: I love your blog as well. It is a delight to read. I have also chosen you to received "The One Lovely Blog Award". You can see all the blogs I have awarded at www.mjhellman.blogspot.com or Mary Jane's Genes.

mjhellman said...

Lucie: I just love your blog. I too, have awarded you "The One Lovely Blog Award". You can find all the blogs I have awarded at
mjhellman.blogspot.com

Have a wonderful day.

Mary

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you Mary..

I had our two and a half year old grandson all of last week so I've not been able to post the awards to my blog but hope to do so this week.

I appreciate the consideration you've given Lucie's Legacy!

Lucie