It is undeniable that the world society has been a patriarchal society for much of history. Men have held much larger roles in society because of the patriarchal nature of the society. However, it is not unusual for women to see an enormous expansion of their societal roles during time of war, especially total war. Total war is called total war for a reason. It involves the effort and expanded roles of the the entire society, male or female. Women see an expansion in role as they see more military opportunities because of the need of more soldiers. They also see an expansion of their role on the home front as so many men dedicate themselves to the war effort and the military. With all of the men enlisting, more industrial opportunities become available to women. As a whole, they just see many more opportunities. The largest total war in history was World War II and women across America saw a huge increase in their societal role during this time both in the military and on the home front.
When examining women’s roles in World War II, many point to Rosie and the Riveter and the role of the woman on the home front. What often goes unnoticed is that women saw a significant increase in military opportunities during the war. Because the United States needed so many soldiers, more women were able to serve roles in the United States military than ever before. During the war, over 350,000 women joined the United States armed forces. This likely occurred for multiple reasons. First and foremost, the most powerful woman in the world, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, made public statements urging women to join the armed forces. Second, the British military had many women in their armed forces and the United States was impressed by the efficiency of their allies. As a result, General George Marshall supported the idea of introducing a women’s service branch into the army. The group that likely left the biggest impact for women during World War II was the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). Women who already held their pilot’s license before the war became the first women ever to fly American military aircrafts. More than 1000 WASPs served and 38 of them lost their lives during the war.
In addition, as many people know, women saw a huge expansion of societal roles on the home front during World War II. When the United States entered the war, many men left enlisted in order to fight for their country in the war effort. As a result, many jobs that were normally held by men were vacated. Companies still needed to fill these positions in order to maintain efficiency and there were now limited options for male employment. As a result, women were able to hold jobs during that war effort that were normally only held by men. Women now worked in factories and held blue collar jobs. This was an idea that was normally unthinkable because people previously believed that men should hold these blue collar jobs while women maintained the household. Rosie the Riveter even became a symbol during the war that urged women to join the workforce by telling them it was their patriotic duty. These expansions in women’s roles both in the armed forces and on the home front led to huge strides later in history in gaining support for the women’s suffrage movement.