Women were always somewhere in the workplace–war made it common

Watched an old classic movie last night, Bridge over the River Kwai. Amazing–all males in the movie. Not a single female. Of course. Women weren’t drafted back then. But they were busy keeping the US running! Check out these facts:

“Rosie the Riveter” became the symbol for women workers in the American defense industries after the US joined WWII. With so many men from the labor pool conscripted into the military–and the need for increased production to support the war effort–the federal War Manpower Commission and the Office of War Information began recruiting women from all over the country into the labor force.

From 1940 to 1945, the number of female workers rose by 50 percent, from 12 million to 18 million. In 1940, women constituted 8 percent of total workers employed in the production of durable goods. By 1945, this number increased to 25 percent. [the US government’s website]

All through the war, women worked as streetcar conductors, taxicab drivers, business managers, commercial airline checkers, aerodynamic engineers, and railroad workers. Women operated machinery, streetcars, buses, cranes, and tractors. They unloaded freight, built dirigibles and gliders, worked in lumber mills and steel mills, and made munitions. In short, women accepted the call and worked in almost every aspect of industry.

How ironic what then happened in the 50s. Women were expected to stay home and support the men (those who came back anyway) and raise the children and get their minds off the idea of significant employment outside the home. For women in the 21st century, the world’s a different place. Options and expectations are different. Possibilities are far less constrained–though the old boys network is still in full operation and “having it all” is still mainly a myth.

But as SWWANs, we identify strongly with those women who were home alone having to do it all by themselves. That’s why we like Rosie’s tagline: “We can do it!” Changing the idea of “me by myself” into “we, together.”


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