During WWII hundreds of men were leaving civilian jobs everyday to join the armed forces.
In their place marched in women, who were “carrying on” work that had to be done to keep America’s war program going at top speed. These gals were soldiers too helping us win the war doing tasks once considered unladylike, such as tending blast furnaces in steel mills, welding hulls in shipyards, running forklifts and working overtime on the riveting machine.
Throughout the war, the armed forces newspaper, The Stars and Stripes had been bursting with pride with uplifting, home-front stories of the swell of patriotic cuties in blue overalls and hair bandanas, standing shoulder to shoulder with their men, taking up the load for Uncle Sam.
No effort was spared to get those ladies out of their homes and into overalls.
In this 1943 ad prepared in cooperation with the War Advertising Council housewives were scolded to leave their afternoon bridge games and get out and get a job to help the war effort:
“Must bullets whine and sirens shriek before all American women realize that the time is here.The time for them to get out and drive a truck, load a freight car, carry a waitress tray, work in a day nursery, operate an elevator?”
“It isn’t pleasant, no! But neither is war. And the war won’t be won unless our men abroad fighting are backed up by our women at home, working.”
“Read the want ads in your home paper to see what war jobs there are for women in your area, then register at your local US Employment Service. There are paying jobs in many areas with training for the inexperienced. Get out and work, 4 hours, 8 hours, 10 hours if you can…but work…and stick to it till the war is won.”
“The idle woman will be a very lonely soul this year!”
The Swing Shift
In this 1944 vintage ad from Pennsylvania Railroad , women serve a vital role on the rails.
“Railroading has always been regarded as a mans calling”, the ad begins.”But when war reached deeply into railroad ranks- taking from the Pennsylvania Railroad alone more than 41,000 skilled and experienced workers for the armed Forces- women were employed to keep trains rolling.”
“Today approximately 22,000 women are serving in a wide variety of occupations”- four of which are shown in the ad.
“Positions such as trainmen, ticket sellers train passengers representatives ushers information and reservation personnel call for intelligence, courtesy and a high degree of efficiency. Young women have proved they can fill these roles most capably.”
“So we’re glad to have their help in the greatest job railroads have ever been called to do, moving men and material to victory!”
“Hats off to the woman of the year! For the duration,” The Mutual Life Insurance Company ad crows, “she has abandoned her typewriter to volunteer her quick hands and steady nerves where they can speed the biggest job our Uncle Sam ever had”
In this ad from General Electric, women are filling all sorts of interesting and important war jobs from measuring wind currents at night, to guiding a plane to safe landing, all with the help naturally of GE lamps.
Advertisers regularly depicted women engaged in war work in their ads
A Change of Heart
But by 1945, even Uncle Sam was whistling a different tune, as in a widely circulated War Dept. brochure proclaiming that “A woman is merely a substitute, like using plastic instead of metal.”
Those same glowing home front stories, now took a more scolding tone accusing these same patriotic girls of doing “unwomanly” jobs. Would there be a job left for Sargent Joe when he returned home to his best girl and the little recruit he left behind?
Operation: June Cleaver
Suddenly, it seemed wherever you turned a fierce campaign was being launched with threatening messages aimed directly at women. The articles all implied that careers and higher education were leading to the masculinization of women with enormously dangerous consequences to the country, the home, the children and to the ability of the women as well as her husband to obtain sexual gratification.
If a woman held an important professional position, they more than implied, she would lose her womanly qualities!
It was all out war.
It would be more than a decade until this secret campaign would reveal itself: “Operation: June Cleaver” would be a huge success!
After Rosie the Riveter finished her stint on the assembly line, Uncle Sam wanted her to keep up the same wartime production…only this time, in bed.
Copyright (©) 2012 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
You May Also Enjoy
- A Blueprint For The Middle Class (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)
- The Real Housewives of the Cold War