Theeffects of changes in the participation of women in the workforce in the 1940sare positive. Men had to leave their jobs to fight for the United States inWorld War II. If women had not taken up the jobs that the men had left behind,then the economy would have collapsed, and the country had only recently gottenout of a severe depression. The participation of women in the workforceassisted in the progression of the gender equality movement which is a movementthat is still taking place today. Women have gained the confidence to beindependent and this started in the 1940s. However, others find that allowingwomen to work is not beneficial as they believe women should stick to their “traditional”roles.
Inthe 1940s, millions of women above the age of 14 were employed.Many of these jobs were in marketing. The percentage of married women who wereworking went from 11.7% in 1930 to 15.2% in 1940. 71% of all teachers and 86% ofall librarians were women in 1940 (“Working Women in the 1930s”, 4).
At thepeak of the war, more than 19 million women were employed (“Women Workers inWorld War II, 5). The effects of changes that occurred whenwomen worked in World War II can be perceived as positive or negative. Prior tothe 1940s, many women were working, though not as many were as in the 1940s andbeyond.
One could argue that women saw the effects as positive because they mayhave felt a sense of significance because they were allowed to prove themselves(“Introduction Revised”, 5). Accordingto Mrs. Else Perdicaris who was interviewed on the topic, “many of the men weregone and women just dug in and did it” (Perdicaris). Manyorganizations actively encouraged the participation of women in theworkforce. An example of one such organization is the Women’s Labor Bureauwhich passionately promotes equality in the workforce. This organization was beganin 1920 and is still in existence today. The organization believes that thecountry has come a long way in terms of gender equality in the workplace butstill has some “barriers” to knock down. According to the Women’s Labor Bureau,”the number of women in the labor force has both reflected and contributed to amajor social transformation over the past several decades” (“Working Women Today”,3)The government in the 1940s believed thatwomen were necessary in order for the economy to progress.
Because some womenwere hesitant to take up jobs, the government created propaganda to encouragewomen to work. This is how “Rosie the Riveter” came to be. She was based off of a real woman who workedas an aircraft assembly worker which allowed for women to be able to relate toher. Rosie was depicted with muscles which was a change because muscles werenever associated with women in the 1940s (“Rosiethe Riveter Motivates Working Women Revised”, 2). Women did feel inspired and felt that a positive change had takenplace and that was the change in how many women were working.
While most women found the effects to bepositive in the 1940s, many were hesitant to accept the change and may haveseen the effects as negative. Women were unsure that equality was the bestthing for the nation because many had never known what it was like to betreated as an equal by a man (“Rosie the Riveter Motivates Working Women Revised”,2). Older generations during this time period were also very suspicious as it’sharder to accept change when you’ve lived your whole life the same way. Stillothers may have been more lenient had they not had children and been hesitantabout leaving them in order to work.The changes were also perceived asnegative.
Men were sent to fight in World War II and had to give their jobs up.These jobs were given to women who grew accustomed to working and enjoyed it.However, when they returned they expected to get their jobs back and many wereangered when women refused to give their jobs up. For this reason, many men mayhave found the effects to be negative because the change meant that they wouldn’thave their jobs.
However, in the end, many women were fired or had to leavetheir jobs so that returning veterans could be employed once more (“History ofWomen in the Workforce from 1939-1954 Revised”, 5). When the interviewee was asked how she thought women felt abouthaving to leave their jobs, her reply was as follows: “I would think the womenwould be glad to get out of it… they’d be glad to not have to put on those workclothes and get up to the machinery and do whatever Rosie the Riveter had to do”(Perdicaris). However, statisticallyspeaking, 61-85% of women wanted to keep their jobs which shows that they didweren’t “glad” to learn they had to leave (“Women Workers In World War II, 15).Men started to gain respect for workingwomen as the years went on. Women worked in the army in the WAC, or Women’sArmy Corps and the navy in the WAVES or the Women Accepted for VolunteerEmergency Service. Women were not allowed to go out to combat but did otherwork such as typing and filing. Women were teased because they were working inpositions typically held by men.
However, when women taught men how to shootguns and how to fly a plane, the teasing died down (Price 4). Mrs. Else Perdicaris agreed to sit downfor an interview.
She was born in 1930 and lived in Crown Point Indiana formuch of her early life. She was 9 years old by the time World War II startedand 2 years later when the U.S. entered the war she was 11. According to her, “womenwere doing was they had to do because it had to be done”. Much of the interviewwas focused on the role of women in the workforce from her point of view as shewas too young to work during the war. When asked how women played a significantrole in keeping up the economy during the war, she replied that they “keptthings going” and that “the women had a big place in the workforce” (Perdicaris).
In her interview, Mrs. Perdicaris mademany remarks about how women working was a good thing but also made someremarks that proved that the older generation may accept certain things but ina different way than younger generations do. For example, she stated thatthroughout her years her opinion on women in the workforce has remained thesame and said “I think if women can do a job…they’re capable and I think a lotof them can be much more capable than men…but no I think it’s a matter ofcapability and availability and personality”. “I think those things are thethings that would make women capable of the work”. At the same time, however,she stated it was the “right way to go…to have a man as a head…women have toprove themselves”. Mrs. Perdicaris provided insight to both the opinions ofthose who believed the effects were negative as well as those who believed theeffects were positive (Perdicaris).As time passed, women’s role in theworkforce evolved.
In 2000, 66.3 million women were in the workforce ascompared to 19 million women who worked in the 1940s. By 2015, 73.5 millionwomen were working and made up 46.8% of the total number of people employed. Itis estimated that by 2024, 77.2 million women will be a part of the labor force(“Women In TheWorkforce Before, During, And After The Great Recession”, 3). By2009, 80% of American women who have received formal education made up thelabor force in contrast to the 62% of women who did the same in 1963 (Dunlop, 9).
To many people, the increase in numbersis seen as a constructive change, while others feel that the change is unfavorable.Next, many people viewed women taking upjobs as negative in the 1940s especially if the woman had a child who she hadto leave at home while at work. In the 1980s, 55% of adults believed that achild would suffer if their mother was working and not taking care of them. By2012, only 35% of adults still thought the same, thus proving that working womenare more accepted then they once were (D’Vera Cohn et al., 10). After the war, returning veterans neededjobs, and women were forced to give their jobs up. Similarly today, according apublic poll conducted in 2014, 27% of mothers had to leave their jobs for theirfamily whereas only 10% of men have had to do that (“On Pay Gap, MillennialWomen Near Parity-For Now”, 39).
This shows that while women are not asexpected to fulfill their “traditional” roles, they still are somewhat expectedto do so. Furthermore, men today are more acceptingof the fact that women are capable of working and accepting that their role canbe beneficial. While in the 1940s men had some respect for women because theykept the economy up, this respect has only increased from then. In a surveyconducted by CNN, 98% of men approved of “a married woman holding a job in thebusiness or industry if her husband is able to support her” (“CNN ORC Poll, 3). Today, many more women feel that theirrole is extremely important and that they are necessary for our country tobecome more open-minded and accepting. They also feel that while things are definitelyprogressing, a certain aspect that has stayed the same is the difference in recognitionand appreciation that men and women receive. Women have to work harder thanmany men do to be acknowledged and many times perform the same tasks as men butget paid significantly less than men do.
Towards the end of her interview, Mrs.Perdicaris commented that “success and comfort are not always coexistent…and I thinksometimes women have to work harder to be able to accomplish something…than aman would have to work to get to the same point” (Perdicaris). To conclude, the effects of changes in theparticipation of women in the workforce are positive. Over the years, thenumber of employed and educated women has only increased.
Prior to the 1940s womenwere employed, but the 1940s really solidified and emphasized the fact thatwomen were capable of so much more than they were thought to be. The 1940sprovided a starting point to the future of so many women. Without women thecountry may have fallen back into a depression and their economy would havefallen. Rosie the Riveter inspired millions of women to work which proved thatthe government believed in women. Over time, many men and people of older generationsstarted to recognize the significance of working women. While people are stillprejudiced against women and don’t believe they should be allowed to work, thegrowing number of employed women and the progression of the gender equalitymovement proves that only good things have come from women participating in theworkforce.