Ellen J. Babb


During World War II, government agencies and private businesses recruited millions of American women for employment in wartime industries and in other nontraditional fields when the nation’s young men left for war. Government propaganda, national periodicals, and local newspapers worked in unison to promote female employment, and popular songs like “Rosie the Riveter” inspired allegiance on the home front. In a radical departure from previously sanctioned public behavior, older, married women— many with children— entered the country’s labor force en masse. Even though millions of women stepped well beyond previously accepted boundaries of home and “women’s sphere” during World War II, recruitment campaigns continued to define women’s new roles in domestic terms, reinforcing expectations that women would relinquish their wartime positions to veterans when peace returned.