How did the lives and social status of women change during WW2?

Background

Before the war few women followed careers. Most jobs for women were ‘traditional’ roles such as nursing, secretarial or caring jobs.

 

Women in industry

Millions of men joined the armed forces, more

workers were needed to fill their places in the

factories. This changed the traditional views

of women. Job opportunities in munitions

factories for working-class women allowed

them to earn a much higher wage than before.

Women became machinists, lumberjacks,

dockers and railway engineers.

 

Attitudes changed – people supported these changes.

In 1939 only 36 women were employed in shipbuilding. By 1943 the number was 200,000.

 

Women in the armed forces

Some 300,000 women served in the army, navy and nursing corps, and a quarter of these served overseas.

 

How did the role of women change?

Women were portrayed in the traditional ‘young

and good-looking’ way in beauty parades for

women in the armed services.

However images of working women were also

used to help change the stereotypes –

Rosie the Riveter was a fictional character used

in propaganda and news reports to encourage

women to take up ‘man’s work’.