Rosie the Riveter and the Stay at Home Mom
World War II disrupted not only world order, but order here on the Home Front. Industries which had made consumer goods like cars and appliances shifted over to wartime production. Everyday routines were disrupted by rationing and blackouts.
But no groups were more disrupted than women and blacks. (Excluding, of course the terrible disruption of Japanese Americans interred in camps.)
For many women, the primary disruption was the removal of men – husbands, fathers, brothers, sons – from their lives. A substantial number of women not only entered the workforce for the first time, but many found that they enjoyed the feeling of competence and independence a job provided. Rossie the Riveter became an icon.
A second, and longer lasting, disruption occurred when men came home expecting that life would return to pre-war norms but were confronted by wives who chose to remain working.
Employers had become accustomed to women in the work force and now, with the post-war economic boom, the door for women’s’ opportunities was nailed open.
In 1941 the percentage of women who worked outside the home was 25%, mostly in low level clerical work, or as nurses and teachers. In one generation that percentage doubled and today is estimated at 70+%.
For more on this, I’m re-sending, below, an earlier blog post from last April.
If you have a story about women on the home front, please send it along.
The Short, Mythical Era of the Stay at Home Mom
Ah, the stay at home mom! The 1950s, a time when moms stayed home and baked cookies and all was perfect. It’s a myth. What was your experience? Did you have a stay at home Mom or were you, like so many, a latchkey kid, outside, finding out about the world on your own?
Post your growing up stories – or just a comment – here. I’ll share them!
Those were the days. Dad went off to work while Mom stayed home and took care of the house.
She helped out at the PTA. She baked cookies for the kids. She was always there when they came home from school. That’s the way it used to be. That’s how it should be. That’s the way it always was.
No, it wasn’t. That idealized image did exist, but only for a short time, maybe little over a decade. Like so many things, this phenomenon requires going back to the WWII era. In the early 1940s the 25% of women working outside the home mostly followed traditional roles as teachers, nurses, and office assistants though some worked in sewing and other factories.
By 1945, at the height of the war, about one third of women worked outside the home, the increase caused by their working in war production factories.