History, Politics & Society
World War 2

How did the life of women differ after World War 2?


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During the war, women took the jobs that once had been open to men only. They performed a variety of vital military duties as members of the WAAC, WAVES, MCWR, WASP, WFA, and WAFS. They ferried planes back and forth from the east and west coast and Britain. They operated radios and repaired planes and vehicles. They also were assigned with men to clerical duties, and because of this new personnel issues that before no one paid attention to were now important. In many cases they did enjoy this work. Some women who worked during the war were happy to have their own jobs because they felt empowered to help with the war effort and to make their own decisions.

Over six million women were employed in heavy manufacturing jobs during WWII. These women were largely responsible for keeping the American economy moving forward during the war. Jobs that they did included riveting aircraft cowls, welding personnel carriers and building military equipment that until the war had been entirely male-dominated jobs.

Once the war was over, returning soldiers took up the jobs and the women returned to traditional roles or were forced into lower-level service jobs with no skill requirement and meager pay. These "women's work" jobs included roles as salesclerk, homemaker, nurse, teacher, social worker, librarian, and office worker.

During the war, it was difficult for many women to continue to work, because there was no system in place to pick up the burden of childcare. The term "juvenile delinquent" was coined during this time period, as the media reported on roving bands of children with no parental supervision. As a result, there emerged a backlash against women in the workplace, and during the 1950's, women who worked outside the home were generally frowned upon.

In USSR- women actually saw combat as tank commanders and snipers, as well as the usual jobs of nurses, factory workers, etc.

In Germany- It was making babies! Medals were awarded when women had babies for the Third Reich! Some were test pilots. There was a famous one who wanted to fly Hitler out of Berlin right before the fall of the city; Hitler refused. Some (not many) German women did see combat, and some were also "working" at the POW camps and death camps. Many women were conscripted to the Women's Land Army, continued from WWI to feed the soldiers by growing crops. Started with 1,000 Land girls. In 1943 numbers (including the Timber Corps) was 87,000. The numbers were reduced as POWs worked instead. Women received conscription to services, and for the WLA were given 4-5 weeks training at best. The first conscription in 1941 for all 20-30 year olds but increased to 50 in 1943. Those with a husband and children under 14 were exempt. The Timbers Crops women reduced timber imports by 75%.