Women At War

When America went to war, women went to work in defense plants and at shipyards doing jobs that before would have been performed by men. The millions of job openings in defense could not be filled without the help of women who were motivated by their patriotism and by the good pay these defense jobs provided.

The government launched a campaign to get more women into the workforce. A song titled "Rosie the Riveter" was written and a famous artist drew her on the cover of a popular magazine called the Saturday Evening Post. The term "Rosie the Riveter" was created because jobs such as riveting, usually seen as men's work, were now being done by women.

During WWII, more than six million women joined the workforce. Newsweek magazine reported: “They [women] are in the shipyards, lumber mills, steel mills, foundries. They are welders, electricians, mechanics, and even boilermakers. They operate streetcars, buses, cranes, and tractors. Women engineers are working in the drafting rooms and women physicists and chemists in the great industrial laboratories.”

More than two million women joined the war effort as clerical workers, many of which were hired by the government. Women also became police officers, taxicab drivers, and lawyers as men left for the armed forces. Women ran farms, planted crops, took care of animals, and harvested tons of vegetables, fruits, and grains.
Three million women also served in the Red Cross as volunteers. Millions of women worked for the Civilian Defense as air-raid wardens, fire watchers, and auxiliary police. Women volunteers also spent hours scanning the sky with binoculars, looking out for enemy planes.
Thousands of women joined the military:
Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS)
Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES)
Women’s Army Corps WAC)
Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)

This site was developed by Carole Parsons, a 5th grade teacher at Millbrook Elementary School. This lesson is part of a unit on WW II for the 5th grade Social Studies classes. Students are also working on performing a play based on the attack on Pearl Harbor, reading a WWII novel, and using extensive PowerPoint presentations to provide additional information to enhance the text.


Ruth Patrick Science Education Center


http://rpsec.usca.edu/Classwork731sp2006/lesson/parsons/womenatwar.html (February 2006)

The views expressed on this page are necessarily those of the University of South Carolina.