Labors Home Front: The American Federation of Labor during World War II

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USD Buy Online, Pick up in Store is currently unavailable, but this item may be available for in-store purchase. Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Overview One of the oldest, strongest, and largest labor organizations in the U. Show More. Average Review. Write a Review. Related Searches. A sober and wide-ranging analytical essay placing American foreign policy and the evolution of the A sober and wide-ranging analytical essay placing American foreign policy and the evolution of the international system in a broad historical context.

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Alice C.

Gender on the Home Front

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Edward Sugden argues that these ocean spaces existed in Fighting on Two Fronts: African Americans and the. The Germans and Japanese had a year head start on amassing weapons. Production was essential to victory, and women were essential to production. Weatherford , The Office of War Information was responsible for "selling" the war to women. It sent monthly guides to magazine and newspaper editors and radio commentators, suggesting approaches to war topics.

The OWI also allocated air time and print space, so that the media would stress the same themes at the same time.

It distributed films and maintained a close relationship with the War Advertising Council. The agency launched campaigns and urged magazines to cover working women in their articles Berkin and Norton , These campaigns were initially successful. In December , about 12 million women were employed; by early , this number was over 16 million-an increase of 36 percent.

The World War II Kaiser Richmond shipyard labor force | Kaiser Permanente

In manufacturing alone, a reported 6 million women labored to make weapons for the fighting men Pidgeon , 2. The problem for the government seemed not to be employing women in these defense plans, but in convincing women to do the other 82 percent of the work that was unglamorous but had to be done.

The two agencies wanted to communicate to women that "any kind of service in the labor force is a distinct contribution to winning the war" "More Women Must Go to Work," Problems of Working Women As women entered the labor force in increasing numbers during the war, many problems arose. Childcare, housework, and transportation were all left up to the working woman. This resulted in many women quitting their jobs to take care of these domestic responsibilities "Women Lagging in War Effort," The largest and most urgent of these problems was childcare.

Until this time, middle class women were expected to care for their own children.


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There were no profit-making childcare centers as there are today. Some factories made their own provisions for workers' children, setting up in-plant care Weatherford , Housework was an all-day task. Still, women were expected to handle it by themselves: '"It was an era of cooking from scratch and washing dishes by hand. It was before clothes dryers and permanent press. The work of running a home required a far greater commitment of time [than today]" Weatherford , If a woman had a job on the night shift in a factory, she would work all day doing household tasks, then all night as well.


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With new tires virtually unavailable due to lack of rubber and gas rationing, transportation also reached a new urgency. Many women lived in semirural areas and needed to drive to work. These women often carpooled and drove their neighbors to the factory as well. One woman wrote, "You seldom see an empty back seat" Weatherford , Many of these problems had never been an issue before the war. As a result of the mobilization of women, the government woke up to the realities of childcare and women's difficulties in the home.

These women communicated their need to share household tasks with their families and this, in turn, illustrated the need for change in stereotyped gender roles. Volunteer Efforts Even those women who stayed home played a major role in government campaigns. The OEI and WMC needed to communicate the importance of these women to the war effort, for it was this group that was primarily responsible for complying with rations and doing volunteer work: "In every city and village of the nation women are sewing for the Red Cross, participating in the civilian defense activities, organizing recreational services for members of the armed forces" Kingsley , This organization was responsible for taking women out of the cities and onto the farms.

At first, many farmers were reluctant to comply with the WLA. They didn't believe city girls, ignorant of the ways farms function, would make a significant difference in food production.

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But women were the last available resource. By the first summer of the war, women working in agriculture had risen from one to 14 percent. Many of these women were volunteers Weatherford , Rationing was a necessary irritation for Americans during the Second World War. Women needed to learn the difference between "certificate rationing," "coupon rationing," and "value points.

Because they were the primary consumers of their families, the government concentrated its messages on rationing toward women. Military Service Another major change during World War II with regard to women came when they were able to be inducted into the armed services. At the beginning of American involvement in early , a bill went before the House of Representatives to establish a women's auxiliary in the Army.

Two other groups formed to give women a chance to fly. The movies and films of the time made up a large part of the propaganda influencing women to join the armed forces. Newspaper and magazine articles, too, showed a glamorized picture of military life Lotzenhiser Although their numbers were small, these women were important because they were the first to be recognized with full military status.

Nurses on duty with the armed forces numbered only 36, in Palmer, , Those who served abroad during the war received a great deal of publicity in relation to their small numbers. Still, nurses in Bataan had to care for to men apiece.

Even before American involvement in , some hospitals had to close wings because no nurses were available to work in them. By the United States needed 66, nurses for the military and 30, for civilian duty. To cope with this severe shortage, Congress passed a bill in May to provide funding for nursing schools. But when even this measure did not improve the situation, 73 percent of Americans polled approved of a draft for women to fill the much-needed nursing vacancies.

When "the tradition of protection for women was placed against the need of wounded men for nurses, tradition was quick to go" Weatherford , Postwar Changes The fact that women came so close to being drafted seems to remain a forgotten part of American history. When the end of the war finally came, Americans were too busy rejoicing to notice this fundamental change in the government's attitude toward women.

Congress had agreed that the Constitution made no provisions for the protection of women from a draft, and all in Congress who were involved in that debate agreed that they had the authority to conscript both men and women.