American Propaganda During World War II - Themes - War Effort - Womanpower


See also: Rosie the Riveter See also: Women's roles in the World Wars

Major campaigns were launched to encourage women to enter the work force and convince their husbands that this was appropriate behavior. Government campaigns targeting women were addressed solely at housewives, perhaps because already employed women could move to the higher-paid "essential" jobs on their own, or perhaps in the belief that housewives would be the primary source of new workers. Propaganda was also directed at husbands, many of whom were unwilling to have their wives working. Fiction also addressed husbands' resistance to their wives working.

Key symbolic figures such as "Rosie the Riveter" and "Mrs. Casey Jones" appeared in posters across the country representing strong women who supported their husbands in the war effort. Due to all the propaganda targeting female wartime duties, the number of women working jumped 15% from 1941 to 1943. Women were the primary figures of the home front, which was a major theme in the poster propaganda media, and, as the war continued, women began appearing more frequently in war posters. At first, they were accompanied by male counterparts, but later women began to appear as the central figure in the posters. These posters were meant to show a direct correlation with the efforts of the home front to the war overseas and portray women as directly affecting the war. Radios also broadcast information and appeals, drawing on patriotic calls and the need of such work to save men's lives.

Two major campaigns were launched: "Women in the War," to recruit for the armed services and war-related jobs; and "Women in Necessary Services," or such jobs as laundry, clerking in grocery and drug stores, and other employment necessary to support the economy. Books and magazines addressed women with the need for their labor. Many works of fiction depicted women working in industries suffering labor shortages, although generally in the more glamorous industries. Major magazines covers movies, and popular songs all depicted women workers.

The woman war worker was commonly used as a symbol of the home front, perhaps because, unlike a male figure, the question of why she was not serving in the armed forces would not be raised. In many stories, the woman worker appeared as an example to a selfish woman who then reformed and obtained employment.

Magazines were urged to carry fiction suitable for wartime. For instance, True Story toned down its Great Depression hostility to working women and featured war work favorably. At first, it continued sexual themes, such as female war workers being seduced, having affairs with married men, or engaging in casual affairs. The Magazine Bureau objected to this as hindering recruitment, and argued that war workers should not be shown as more prone to dalliance than other women. As a result, True Story removed such themes from stories featuring female war workers. The ambitious career woman whose life culminated in disaster still appeared, but only when motivated by self-interest; whereas women who worked from patriotic motives were able to maintain their marriages and bear children rather than suffer miscarriages and infertility, as working women invariably suffered in pre-war stories. Stories showed that war work could redeem a woman with a sordid past. Saturday Evening Post changed its depiction of working women even more: the pre-war, destructive career wife vanished entirely, and now employed women could also have happy families

The image of the "glamour girl" was adapted to wartime conditions by depicting women in factory work as attractive and overtly showed that a woman could keep her looks while performing war work. Fictional romances presented war workers as winning the attention of soldiers, in preference to girls who lived for pleasure. The motives for female war workers motives were often presented as bringing their men home earlier, or making a safer world for their children. Depictions of female war workers often suggested that they were working only for the duration, and planned to return full-time to the home afterward.

The appeal for women workers suggested that by performing war work, a woman supported her brother, boyfriend or husband in the armed forces, and hastened the day when he could return home.

Read more about this topic:  American Propaganda During World War II, Themes, War Effort