Women and Minorities in WWII
Following the United States' entry into World War
II in 1941, millions of American women answered the
government's call to enter the work force and fill
traditionally male jobs left vacant by those who had
gone off to fight. Above all, women's labor was
urgently needed to help fill shortages created by the
expanded wartime economy, especially in the
production of military hardware. These women who
wore hard-hats and overalls and operated heavy
machinery represented a radical departure from the
traditional American feminine ideal of housewife and
Norman Rockwell portrayed Rosie
"Do the Job He Left Behind" was a as a monumental figure clad in
overalls and a work-shirt with the
campaign slogan that emphasized sleeves rolled up to reveal her
women’s patriotism for the war powerful, muscular arms
The entire country pulled together to
support the war effort and build the
"Arsenal of Democracy."
Rose Will Monroe, riveter at the Ford Willow Run
airplane factory, became a "Rosie the Riveter" icon
by starring in a film campaign to increase the sale of
Women Produced Wartime goods
Millions of women nationwide joined the work
force both as a matter of patriotic duty and to
support their families.
Rosies worked on all phases of manufacturing,
from electrical wiring to putting the finishing
touches on a bomber.
The government attempted to alleviate some of this stress between two demands--country and
home--by creating federally funded daycare centers. There were about 130,000 children in
over 3,000 daycare centers at the height of the War
Nurses in the army
Rosie the Riveter
All the day long,
Whether rain or shine,
She's a part of the assembly line.
She's making history,
Working for victory,
Rosie the Riveter.
Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage,
Sitting up there on the fuselage.
That little girl will do more than a male
Rosie's got a boyfriend, Charlie.
Charlie, he's a Marine.
Rosie is protecting Charlie,
Working overtime on the riveting machine
When they gave her a production "E",
She was as proud as she could be,
There's something true about,
Red, white, and blue about,
Rosie the Riveter.
Did women stay in the workforce??
Soldiers began returning home and they
wanted their jobs back. By late 1944,
magazines were advertising "after-victory"
homes, hoping to promote women’s return to
their previous role as homemaker. Some
women, who needed to work in order to
survive, were forced back into lower-paying
jobs consisting mostly of the stereotypical
female occupations. The labor division between
men and women was never totally eliminated,
and attitudes returned to their original
position that women’s first priority should be
The reversed strategy was to push the women back into the home with
promise of new and wonderful consumer goods to make their housewife
role easier and to ensure that their real happiness was in caring for their
men and children
Propaganda to move women back into the home
The message that women should quit their jobs "for the
sake of their homes as well as the labor situation"
overwhelmed women. The company newspaper at Kaiser
shipyards in the Pacific Northwest proclaimed in May
1945, "The Kitchen-Women's Big Post-War Goal." Putting
words into the mouths of Kaiser's female employees, the
article asserted, "Brothers, the tin hat and welder's torch
will be yours! ... The thing we want to do is take off these
unfeminine garments and button ourselves into something
starched and pretty."
A General Electric ad predicted that women would
welcome a return to "their old housekeeping routine"
because GE intended to transform housework with new
Critical thinking question
Women gained a position of great
importance during WWII; Did
another minority gain prestige?
Was any minority group
“No person shall be held to answer for a
capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on
a presentment or indictment of a grand jury,
except in cases arising in the land or naval
forces, or in the militia, when in actual service
in time of war or public danger; nor shall any
person be subject for the same offense to be
twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall
be compelled in any criminal case to be a
witness against himself, nor be deprived of
life, liberty, or property, without due process
of law; nor shall private property be taken for
public use, without just compensation.”
Imagine you are living in the United States during World
War II. The United States government feels that your ethnic
group is a threat to national security. The president issues an
order that states, “If you are of Japanese ancestry, you must
report to a „relocation camp‟ with only the belongings you
can carry.” You can no longer report to your job, attend
school, or worship at your usual place of worship. You are
given a place to sleep in a barracks with hundreds of others
now interned with you. You must eat and sleep at scheduled
times, and you are restricted to the perimeter of the camp,
which is guarded by armed military personnel.
This scenario was reality for Japanese-Americans during
World War II as a result of Roosevelt issuing Executive
The Plight of Japanese Americans
After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941,
fear of a Japanese invasion and of subversive acts by
Japanese Americans prompted the government to
move more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry
to 10 relocation camps. Those forcibly removed from
their homes, businesses, and possessions included
Japanese immigrants legally forbidden to become
citizens (Issei), their American-born children (Nisei),
and children of the American-born (Sansei)
First hand accounts
"I remember the soldiers marching us to the Army
tank and I looked at their rifles and I was just
terrified because I could see this long knife at the end
. . . I thought I was imagining it as an adult much
later . . . I thought it couldn't have been bayonets
because we were just little kids."
"When we first arrived at Minidonka, everyone was
forced to use outhouses since the sewer system had
not been built. For about a year, the residents had to
brave the cold and the stench of these
More than 120,000 Americans of Japanese Ancestry
were incarcerated in 10 camps scattered throughout
Western states during World War II
These Japanese Americans, half of whom were
children, were incarcerated for up to 4 years,
without due process of law or any factual basis,
in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed
wire and armed guards.
They were forced to evacuate their homes and
leave their jobs; in some cases family members
were separated and put into different camps.
President Roosevelt himself called the 10
facilities "concentration camps."
Some Japanese Americans died in the camps
due to inadequate medical care and the
emotional stresses they encountered. Several
were killed by military guards posted for
allegedly resisting orders.
farm workers harvesting crops in field with Mt.
Williamson in the background
Korematsu v. United States
Fred Korematsu was arrested and convicted for
not reporting to an assembly center in May 1942
The court ruled during WWII, that the
internment of Japanese Americans such as
Fred Korematsu was legal because the posed a
potential threat to the United States. This
illustrates the idea that freedoms of liberty and
speech can and have been restricted during the
extreme cases, such as wartime.
What about Native Americans;
How were they affected by
Navajo Code Talkers
The Code used by the Navajo Code Talkers created
messages by first translating Navajo words into
English, then using the first letter of each English
word to decipher the meaning. Because different
Navajo words might be translated into different
English words for the same letter, the code was
especially difficult to decipher
Navajo Code Talkers were used in Guadalcanal, Tarawa,
Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and were a major reason
for the success of the U.S. Marines. According to Major
Connor, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would
never have taken Iwo Jima."