(From a film and lecture course, covering the segment "Women and World War II")
Roles of American Women in World War II
During World War II, Hollywood films strongly influenced the roles American women played, both while men were away and directly after they returned. These films often sent the message that while their men were away, women must be romantically loyal and keep a secure home for the men to return to. The films also often encouraged women to do their patriotic duty and their part in the war effort by doing war work.
In the film "Since You Went Away" the main character Ann is an example of these ideals. She is faithful to her husband, even when tempted by another, and struggles to keep her home in order while patiently waiting her husband's return. She and her older daughter are also shown doing their part for the country by doing war work, Ann in a factory and her daughter as a nurse's aid.
The films also gave women the message that when their husbands and boyfriends returned from the war, they must be totally understanding and accepting of them. Many men returned from the war with both physical and emotional disabilities, and Hollywood films told women that they must accept these disabilities and be sensitive to the needs of the men, even if that meant sacrificing their own needs and desires. As Emily Rosenberg states in her article "Foreign Affairs After World War II", "American men who served overseas will find it difficult to reintegrate themselves into postwar family and civilian life. Adjustment depends on the degree to which American women grant them understanding and become submissive to their needs" (Rosenberg, 64). Women were told that they should be maternal towards their men and take care of them, while at the same time being sexually available. Sonya Michel states in her article "Danger on the Home Front", "The films showed that the veterans needed both sexual and maternal attention. While depicting the dangers...
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