What changes in the workplace during and after WWII reflected society's attitudes towards women?

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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before World War II, a woman's role was traditionally to be a wife and mother.  Some women did choose to work, but most only did so if they were single.  Women typically held jobs as secretaries, factory workers, teachers, nurses, and maids.  When World War II began, the majority of men who were working age were sent away to fight in Europe and the Pacific.  Woman began doing jobs that had not been acceptable for them to perform before the war.  Women began driving taxi cabs and streetcars, doing skilled work at factories, and analyzing information for intelligence agencies.  They took jobs as mechanics, pilots, and laboratory technicians.  A lot of women worked in these roles for almost four years.  It became socially acceptable for women to hold these jobs because they were contributing to the war effort.  Women doing work traditionally performed by men was seen as sacrificial and patriotic.  The image of Rosie the Riveter helped promote the patriotic idea of women entering the workforce while the men were away at war.

Millions of men returned home after the war.  Most women had no option but to leave their wartime jobs.  Societal ideals shifted back to the way they were before the war.  Women were expected to be wives and mothers or to take jobs men found undesirable.  In the next two decades, it slowly became more acceptable for married women to work.

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