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 LeBlanc Consentino