On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise attack conducted by the Japanese Navy on the United State naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii resulted in America’s involvement in World War II. While the rest of the world was at war, America stayed neutral until the attack on Pearl Harbor which ironically was intended as a preventive action towards America’s involvement in the war. After the attack, America entered the war, a war that the Americans were not prepared for. America just has gotten out of the Great Depression in the 30s and was still recovering. The war brought about draft and new job opportunities for men and women. Nancy Potter, a teen during the time described the effects of the war, "I think for girls and women, and perhaps boys and men, of my generation the war forced them to grow up prematurely. It made them far more serious about the bare realities of life: life, death, values. It robbed them, in a sense, of some childhood" (Women and WWII). The war brought about many changes in society and ideals. World War II changed the traditional gender role of women, and shaped women’s lives today.
It wasn’t until recently that women began to gain equal rights as men and seem as an equal. Traditional role of women is to be domesticated, be a good wife, bore children, and stay home to cook and clean. These societal ideas were deeply rooted in us since the past. Although women that are mothers are still expected to take care of their children and take care of the household, mother are not expected to be stay at home mothers. These changes in societal ideals are recent and it was not until the 1940s did the life patterns of women truly changed. (Yalom)
Women of the past were considered inferior to men, not only physically but also intellectually. Women could not able to own their own property and were not allowed much freedom. Girls received little education and learned how to cook, clean, and care for children from their mothers. Resulting in the stereotype that ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’. (WIC) Once Pearl Harbor occurred, nationalism in the country soared. Men went off to war while the women stayed home. Women started saving metal toothpaste tubes, tin cans, rationed food supplies, planting ‘victory gardens’ and anything else they can to aid the war effort (Evans 219). The demand for workers were immense during the war as millions of men were abroad fighting, the home front was dominated by women. Magazines, billboard, newspapers, and posters all urged women to take defense jobs and replace the men that left to fight. A popular icon was Rosie the Riveter; she is often depicted with a red bandana, strong biceps, and her motto ‘we can do it!’ (Women and WWII) Many men joined the army willingly but many were drafted. Women were not subjected to drafting but many joined the military, air force, and navy. World War II gave women the opportunity to serve as regular members of the armed forces (Hartmann 15). During this time period many organizations and service units were set up for women to aid the war effort. From 1942 – 1944 many women became pilots, they flew military aircrafts and took on missions that were considered risky by ‘male standards’. Although women served in the air force, navy, and military they were not given full military right until a later date. (Sherrow xiv- xv) Women in service did not receive the same pay, benefits, or opportunities for advancement as their counterparts. They were trained and served in separate units, and only a certain number of women were able to enlist. African American women faced even more limitations and obstacles. About 350,000 served in the war in various units, branches of service and many volunteered as nurses. Women were exposed to warzones, and many died in battle and serving as nurses. (Sherrow 133, 340-341) While the men were gone, women were left to fill the jobs of men, to keep the country running. “During the war years, women became streetcar...
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