PEOPLE AND THE WAR

Role of Women

Six million women entered the workforce during the war to fill roles that were new to them. As ten million men nationwide entered military duty, women became welders, riveters, and steamfitters in the shipbuilding plants of Northern California and the aircraft manufacturing plants of Southern California. The shortage of “manpower” opened the door for women to become chemists, reporters, engineers, and draftsmen.

In 1942, a woman's role in military service was expanded beyond primarily nursing to include all branches of military service. For the first time, women served as non-combat pilots, gunnery instructors, and air traffic controllers in newly formed organizations such as the Women's Army Corps (WAC), the Women Accepted for Voluntary Service (WAVES), and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

Of critical importance was the effort of women to maintain normal daily life in the face of food and gas rationing and shortages of consumer goods. Women were called upon to plant, harvest, and can their own food. Women managed households and raised families on their own, while coping with the ever present possibility that a serving husband, son, brother, or father might not return home.