Women of World War II: A Behind the Scenes Driving Force Melanie McCabe Kaplan University 4-2-2011 On December 7, 1941, this country experienced an event as it had never experienced. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor rocked this country to its core and forever changed history. Women played a pivotal role in all aspects of the war from the home front to nursing the wounded, or acting as secret agents it is undeniable that women were vital to the war effort but did not get the praise and recognition that they deserved. It is estimated that during World War II, some 350,000 women served in the U.
S. Armed Forces, both on the home front and over seas meanwhile, with all of the men that were enlisting there were countless jobs that needed to be filled. “Between 1940 and 1945, the female percentage of the U. S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home. ” (Women of WWII paragraph 1). Nursing the Wounded: Military nurses were very much involved in the turmoil at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Many believe that these women perhaps had the most stressful task of all women involved in the war effort.
The attacks on Pearl Harbor left 2,235 service members and 68 civilians dead. Eighty-two Army nurses were serving at three Army Medical Facilities in Hawaii that terrible day. It didn’t matter if you were a military or civilian nurse everyone had one purpose and that was to save as many lives as possible. (Women in World War II) Being a nurse especially on that infamous December morning was filled with pressure and confusion. . (Women in World War II) Everyone was looking to the nurses to save those that were injured by the bombings and little was known about what exactly was happening.
More than two hundred Army nurses lost their lives during World War II. Sixty-six army nurses and eleven navy nurses were imprisoned in concentration camps and some were there for three years or more. .(Nurses in World War II) Not only were these brave women being looked upon to save lives often they had to worry about their own lives and freedom. (Nurses in World War II) Women in the Sky: “Sweetwater, Texas, September 1943: One hundred and twelve women pilots arrived in this small, dusty Texas town, eager to start the Women Air Force Service Pilots training program.
They were to enter Class 44-W-2, the second class of women scheduled to graduate in 1944. These women were a diverse lot. Some were entering the program with the minimum number of flying hours (thirty-five), while some held a commercial license or an instruc- tor’s rating, with several hundred hours of flying time. Some had started flying as early as 1936, and some had started only in 1943. Ages ranged from eighteen to twenty-eight. All, however, were pilots before they arrived”. (Cole, 1995 pg4) “How could so many women have learned to fly on their own initiative (this was only one class out of eighteen), as early as 1943?
Where did they come from, and how did they manage to become pilots? ” (Cole, 1995 pg. 3) For once marital status, or class did not matter there were women from all walks of life they all had a love of flying and all of them wanted to serve America in it’s time of need. These awesome women were the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft. Thirty-eight W. A. S. P’s lost their lives in World War II and many more went on to receive top military honors. (American Women in WWII). “This is not a time when women should be patient.
We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and ever weapon possible. WOMEN PILOTS, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used” Eleanor Roosevelt 1942. Women’s Auxiliary Army Corp: General George Marshall supported the idea of introducing a women’s service branch into the Army. In May 1942, Congress instituted the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, later these women got sick of performing military jobs and not having full military status so they were successfully upgraded to the Women’s Army Corp. As an auxiliary corp. , they did not have full military status.
The members, known as WACs, worked in more than 200 non-combatant jobs stateside and in every aspect of the war. ” By 1945, there were more than 100,000 WACs and 6,000 female officers. In the Navy, members of Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) held the same status as naval reservists and provided support stateside. The Coast Guard and Marine Corps soon followed suit, though in smaller numbers”. (American Women in World War II) “Members of the WAC were the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks of the United States Army.
Both the Army and the American public initially had difficulty accepting the concept of women in uniform. However, political and military leaders, faced with fighting a two-front war and supplying men and materiel for that war while continuing to send lend-lease material to the Allies, realized that women could supply the additional resources so desperately needed in the military and industrial sectors. Given the opportunity to make a major contribution to the national war effort, women seized it. By the end of the war, their contributions would be widely heralded. (Bellafaire, 2009. pg. 1) WAACs did the same type of work, which women did in civilian life. They will bear the same relation to men of the Army that they bear to the men of the civilian organizations in which they work. ” As usual behind the success of every man is a good woman. The W. A. A. C’s were those women. Women as Secret Agents: Another demanding wartime profession that women were highly skilled at but rarely received any praise or recognition was espionage, or acting as secret agents women had a certain natural advantage.
The reason women were used is because German soldiers did not perceive them as an obvious threat. . (WWII Women as Secret Agents) Women often were used as couriers or were sent into bars or watering holes to use their sexuality to extract information. (Agents with Day Jobs). It is very surprising but there are a few well-known figures that are known as or suspected as being spies during WWII. The United States, The British, and The Germans are all believed to have used women as couriers or to obtain intelligence. Well-known cook and author Julia Child was believed to have been a spy all though this was never proven.
Julia started at Office of Strategic Services (the government agency that preceded the CIA) because she was too tall for the Women’s Army Corps. After starting as a typist, she was eventually responsible for cataloging and organizing documents for the OSS’s Secret Intelligence division and received the Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service for her help. Some believe she was a spy for China others believe Germany. Those allegations were never proven. (Agents with Day Jobs). Audrey Hepburn was admittedly a courier during WWII. Greta Garbo another famous actor drew criticism for her neutrality in World War II.
However, according to a book published by spymaster Sir William Stephenson in 1976, she actually aided the allies by identifying Nazi sympathizers in her home country of Sweden and even relayed messages for British agents. In reality, there is no way to know how many women helped the war effort in this manner. . (Agents with Day Jobs). Women on the Home Front: Working is not new to women. Women had been working for years. However, with men leaving for war it left huge gaping holes in the work force. More and more women especially upper class white women were thrust out of the home and into the work force to fill those holes. Before the United States entered World War II, several companies already had contracts with the government to produce war equipment for the Allies. Almost overnight, the United States entered the war and war production had to increase dramatically in a short amount of time. Auto factories were converted to build airplanes, shipyards were expanded, and new factories were built, and all these facilities needed workers. At first companies did not think that there would be a labor shortage so they did not take the idea of hiring women seriously.
Eventually, women were needed because companies were signing large, lucrative contracts with the government just as all the men were leaving for the service. ”(Rosie the Riveter) Women who were not already in the work force did not respond to the call to work as the government had hoped so they started a propaganda campaign and promoted fictional character Rosie the Riveter. Rosie the Riveter was considered the ideal female employee. The most famous image of Rosie appeared in the government-commissioned poster “We Can Do It” Even though the Rosie campaign was considered a huge success the turn out still was not enough. Rosie the Riveter) Half of the women that took on war jobs were minority and lower class women that were already in the work force. “Eventually it became evident that married women were needed even though no one wanted them to work, especially if they had young children. It was hard to recruit married women because even if they wanted to work, many of their husbands did not want them to. Initially, women with children under 14 were encouraged to stay home to care for their families. The government feared that a rise in working mothers would lead to a rise in juvenile delinquency.
Eventually, the demands of the labor market were so severe that even women with children under 6 years old took jobs”. (Rosie the Riveter) It is evident that without these women who stepped up out of their comfort zone our country’s work force would have collapsed. Women in Sports: Women not only stepped up to fill the gapping holes left in the work force women also stepped up to fill the gaping holes left in the world of sports this is evident especially in baseball. “By the fall of 1942, many minor league teams disbanded due to the war.
Young men, 18 years of age and over, were being drafted into the armed services. The fear that this pattern would continue and that Major League Baseball Parks across the country were in danger of collapse is what prompted Philip K. Wrigley, the chewing-gum mogul who had inherited the Chicago Cubs’ Major League Baseball franchise from his father, to search for a possible solution to this dilemma “and thus the A. A. G. P. B. L. was born. (. All-American Girls Professional Baseball League History) The A. A. G. P. B. L lasted from 1943-1954. The rules of the game were a mash up between softball and baseball. Mr.
Wrigley wanted to make his girl league familiar and exciting to draw the crowds but also wanted to make it clear that the league was temporary and they were still women so the women were required to attend charm school and play ball in dresses. The women were not viewed as a “real” league with real players. They did not even have the word “Professional” added to the name until 1986 and that was after a lot of pleading to the M. L. B and the Hall of Fame. .(. All-American Girls Professional Baseball League History) Conclusion: It is clear that women were imperative in not only the war but also keeping our country together.
Women stepped up and proved that they were not just good for domestic duties and raising children, they proved that women really are the glue that holds it all together. Without the bravery and courage of these women what would have happened? Would we have won the war? Would our economy survived? Would sports have survived? Thankfully, we do not have to find out. References: 1. Bellafore, J. (2008, February). THE WOMEN’S ARMY CORPS: A COMMEMORATION OF WORLD WAR II SERVICE. In U. S. Army Center of Military History. Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://www. history. army. mil/brochures/wac/wac. htm 2.
American Women in World War II. (n. d. ). In History. com. Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://www. history. com/topics/american-women-in-world-war-ii 3. Trussell, D. (2010, December 7). Remembering the Women of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. In Politics Daily. Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://www. politicsdaily. com/2010/12/07/remembering-the-women-at-pearl-harbor-on-december-7-1941/ 4. Mann, L. (2008, November). Nurses of World War II. In D. P. S. Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://dpsinfo. com/women/history/woanurse. html 5. Cole, J. (1995). Women Pilots of World War II. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press.
Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o;d=9686528 6. Spies, they’re Just like Us — Female Secret Agents With Day Jobs. (2010, September 9). In Lemondrop. Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://www. lemondrop. com/2010/09/09/nikita-maggy-q-marina-lee-female-spies/ 7. The Image and Reality of Women who Worked During World War II. (n. d. ). In Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War II. Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://www. nps. gov/pwro/collection/website/rosie. htm 8. League History. (n. d. ). In A. A. G. P. B. L.. Retrieved April 5, 2011, from http://www. aagpbl. org/league/history. cfm