In 1939 with the outbreak of WWII causing a mass enlistment of American men into the Armed Forces, women were left to fin for themselves as their male counterparts were deployed overseas. Without their husbands, women began to fall into traditional male dominated roles to fill the void and keep their home life stable and intact. They entered the workforce in massive numbers and became employed as welders, plant operators, and mechanics, and even took on the task of managing their own finances all while still rearing their children.
In addition to the many home front jobs that woman became immersed in, around 350,000 American woman actually joined and served in the Armed Forces. From frontline nurses, coast guards, lab technicians, and even pilots, the women of WWII became just as crucial to the war effort as the men. They also volunteered in newly founded war organizations created specifically for women, such as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS).
In the midst of this time of great social change amongst women, the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign was released which aimed to reify as well as serve as a symbol of the ever changing social roles of women. Overall, during WWII it can be noted that the social role of women was one of change, support, and leadership. Although never formally recognized as “leaders”, they stepped up and took initiative to be and do what they needed during this time of total war. They also supported the war effort and their men in every way possible both from home and abroad. And most importantly, they changed what it meant to be an American woman in more ways than one.