World War II transformed the United States from into a leading military power with forces positioned in many countries. During this war the US Armed Forces were transformed from mostly all male, to mixed gender forces. Almost 400,000 women served the armed forces. They enlisted to allow male soldiers to take up combat positions, by filling jobs that men would normally have. The draft resulted in an insufficient manpower supply, which required women to perform the same work as men in most positions, especially on the military bases (5). This included women operating cranes to move heavy tanks and artillery. Some women would test weapons to make sure they worked properly. Women, who worked as saleswomen, maids, or waitresses, took over jobs such as welders, riveters, drill press operators, and cab drivers. Women made a great contribution to the war effort, but their wages were 50% fewer than what men would have earned at the time (1). They also struggled with social discrimination, gender harassment, and physical pain from long hours and poor working conditions.
Women served in the Army and Navy Nurse Corps, Women’s Army Corps, Army Air Forces, the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, and in the Coast Guard. Other women worked in service organizations such as the American Red Cross and the United Service Organizations (2). By the end of the war, there were few jobs in which women did not serve, which were mostly new positions that were not available when the war began. Women were in every service branch and were assigned to every combat theater. Many earned Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars and Legions of Merit (2). Some were prisoners of war and some died in the service of their country.
For women working in the United States, some went back to being homemakers for their returning husbands. However, most women saw the war ending as life changing. Women had earned their own money and became more independent. World War II provided a way for women to do what they wanted and allowed women to gain a head start on their new lives.
(1) “American Women in World War II.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d.
Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
(2) “Women in the US Military – World War II.” Women in the US Military – World War II.
N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
(3) “The Effects of World War II on Female Employment -Assignment 5 -Ben Kelton.” Social Change and the Future. N.p., 07 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
(4) “WASP Congressional Gold Medal.” WASP Congressional Gold Medal. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
(5) Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. (1943, Aug 07). “WOMEN WORKING IN ARMY DEPOTS.” New York Times (1923-Current File)