World War II Propaganda Posters Activity Women in the Military

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1 Women in the Military Women have served in military conflicts since the American Revolution, but World War II was the first time that women served in the United States military in an official capacity. Although women traditionally were excluded from military service and their participation in the Armed Forces was not promoted at the outset of World War II, it soon became apparent that their participation was necessary to win a total war. Since December 1941, 350,000 women served in the United States Armed Forces. They had their own branches of services, including: Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women's Army Corps or WAC), the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP), and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Services (WAVES). Women also served in the Marines and in a branch of the Coast Guard called SPARS. About seventy percent of women who served in the military during World War II held traditional "female" jobs. They worked as typists, clerks, and mail sorters. Although these jobs may have been less glorified that those of the men fighting on the front lines, women were essential in maintaining the bureaucratic mechanisms that are necessary in total warfare. Also, by filling office jobs that would otherwise be held by men, women freed more men to fight. Women were not permitted to participate in armed conflict but their duties often brought them close to the front lines. One way that women participated in dangerous work was through their work in the Army and Navy medical corps. *Source: Minnesota Historical Society

2 Women at Work 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. The government decided to launch a propaganda campaign to sell the importance of the war effort and to lure women into working. They promoted the fictional character of Rosie the Riveter as the ideal woman worker: loyal, efficient, patriotic, and pretty. Women responded to the call to work differently depending on age, race, class, marital status, and number of children. While patriotism did influence women, ultimately it was the economic incentives that convinced them to work. Once at work, they discovered the nonmaterial benefits of working like learning new skills, contributing to the public good, and proving themselves in jobs once thought of as only men s work. *Source: National Park Service

3 Rationing During the Second World War, you couldn't just walk into a shop and buy as much sugar or butter or meat as you wanted, nor could you fill up your car with gasoline whenever you liked. All these things were rationed, which meant you were only allowed to buy a small amount (even if you could afford more). The government introduced rationing because certain things were in short supply during the war, and rationing was the only way to make sure everyone got their fair share. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor dramatically ended the debate over America's entrance into the war that raged around the world. As eager volunteers flooded local draft board offices ordinary citizens soon felt the impact of the war. Almost overnight the economy shifted to war production. Consumer goods now took a back seat to military production as nationwide rationing began almost immediately. In May of 1942, the U.S. Office of Price Administration (OPA) froze prices on practically all everyday goods, starting with sugar and coffee. War ration books and tokens were issued to each American family, dictating how much gasoline, tires, sugar, meat, silk, shoes, nylon and other items any one person could buy. Across the country 8000 rationing boards were created to administer these restrictions. *Source: American Historical Society

4 Victory Gardens As part of the war effort, the government rationed foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, meat and canned goods. Labor and transportation shortages made it hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market. So, the government turned to its citizens and encouraged them to plant "Victory Gardens." They wanted individuals to provide their own fruits and vegetables. Nearly 20 million Americans answered the call. They planted gardens in backyards, empty lots and even city rooftops. Neighbors pooled their resources, planted different kinds of foods and formed cooperatives, all in the name of patriotism. Farm families, of course, had been planting gardens and preserving produce for generations. Now, their urban cousins got into the act. All in the name of patriotism. Magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Life printed stories about victory gardens, and women's magazines gave instructions on how to grow and preserve garden produce. Families were encouraged to can their own vegetables to save commercial canned goods for the troops. In 1943, families bought 315,000 pressure cookers (used in the process of canning), compared to 66,000 in The government and businesses urged people to make gardening a family and community effort. The result of victory gardening? The US Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9-10 million tons, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables. So, the program made a difference. *Source: Living History Farm

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6 Careless Talk Many posters depicted careless talk as providing information to the enemy, and so causing deaths. The campaign against careless talk served to prevent people with sensitive information from talking about it where spies or saboteurs could listen in. Posters with this theme were used to convey the reality of war to the general public. Some slogans used for this type of poster were loose talk costs lives, Another careless word, another wooden cross, and bits of careless talk are pieced together by the enemy. Stories also emphasized anti-rumor theme, as when one woman advised another not to talk with a man about her war job, because the woman he is dating is untrustworthy and might be an enemy agent. *Source: US Propaganda during WWII

7 War Bonds Definition of War Bond: Debt securities issued by a government for the purpose of financing military operations during times of war. It is an emotional appeal to patriotic citizens to lend the government their money because these bonds offer a rate of return below the market rate. *Source: Investopedia.com The sale of War bonds was promoted. Originally termed Defense Bonds, they were called war bonds after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Much of the nation s artistic talent and best advertising techniques were put to use to keep the program voluntary. War bond rallies and drives were common, and were staged at many social events. Teachers passed out booklets for children to save toward a bond. Marlene Dietrich and many other female movie stars sold thousands of dollars worth of war bonds. Even product ads often contained the slogan Buy War Bonds and Stamps! Payroll deduction plans for buying war bonds were also the subject of propaganda pushes. 135 billion dollars of liberty bonds were sold most of which went to banks, insurance companies and corporations. However, individuals made up 36 billion dollars in bonds sold and children made up 1 billion. *Source: US Propaganda during WWII

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