How was the perception of women changed throughout the Second World War?
World War Two (WW2) broke out in 1939 and would have great effect on the Australian Home Front. The impact was particularly felt by women and their role in society changed to a significant extent. These changes are clearly evident from many factors that took place during the course of the war although, the most significant changes were due to the introduction of women to the predominantly male orientated workforce, fashion change and restrictions and the ‘friendly invasion’ of the American troops. Through identifying these changes it is clear to see how the role and perception of Australian women was completely changed.
Women in the workforce are commonly seen however before the Second World War it was not this way. Before the outbreak of World War Two almost every women's job consisted of looking after the house and children and occasionally working as a domestic cleaner. With the manpower shortage being developed, women needed to take on the roles traditionally preserved for men. Educator Dr Johnston stated that “ War resulted in unexpected involvement by women in military, industrial, agricultural and voluntary organizations”(2006,p.27). Professor of Modern History Cameron expands on this by stating “ After war was declared, the government called on women not in jobs to join the workforce so men could be released to join the armed forced”(2000,p.120). As the war progressed the jobs that women were required to fill became more and more male preserved. Cameron also states “At first women were encouraged into lowly payed jobs categorized as ‘women’s’ jobs orientated with clothing, food factories or hospital works, as the war progressed women were encouraged into jobs seen as ‘mens’ jobs consisting of tram conducting, driving taxis and delivery vans”(2000,p.120). Throughout the progression of the war, joining the male orientated workforce was not all that women were encouraged into. Many women took part in working in the war munitions and even enlisted in the armed services. Johnston communicates that in the Second World War the most significant development was the creation of the women’s services that were not medically related. Additionally he proclaims “The most significant development was the creation of the women’s services that were not nursing or medical”(2006,p.28). K. Cameron corroborates and extends on this notion when its stated “The aim was not to send women into combat but to release men from clerical and other duties so that men could join combat”(2000,p119). Women joining the workforce and armed services was a major contribution to war efforts that the country highly depended on and advanced because of. Also this change was a major contributor to making the first steps to gain equal rights between men and women, as they proved that they were just as able as the men to perform certain jobs. The perception of women was altered as instead of seeing women as house wives and the second sex, they stepped up to the expectations and successfully filled the mens jobs.
In the Second World War a great deal of change was set upon the fashion due to restrictions and new regulations. All throughout history there have been distinct changes in the fashion of each the different eras. Prior to the Second World War Australia's fashion was vibrant as Professor L. Olds states that the pre war fashion was described as “glamorous striking and diplomatic” (2001, p.48), also that the styles were influenced by the silver screen actresses. With the country going to war and resources heavily needed for war related expenditure it created a major toll instilled onto the buying and selling of clothes as there was less available, prices were raised and the amount that could be purchased was regulated. Due to limited sources a system was introduced to limit and regulate the amount of clothe production buy using coupons. Olds states “With the outbreak of...
Bibliography: Cameron. K (2000) Investigating Australia’s 20th Century History, Thompson nelson publishing, Southbank Victoria (19/08/13)
Johnston. M (2006) Australia’s Home Defence 1939-1945, Department of veterans affairs, Canberra (31/07/13)
Olds. L (2001) WWII and Fashion: The Birth Of The New Look, Constructing the past, Volume 2 (05/08/13)
Rationing of Food and Clothing in the Second World War
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