Matthew Hill received Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Psychology from Columbia International University. Hill also received an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Georgia State University. He has over 10 years of teaching experience as a professor and online instructor for courses like American History, Western Civilization, Religious History of the United States, and more.
The Changing Roles of U.S. Women After World Wars 1 & 2
Women in the First World War
Historically, wartime circumstances create a greater role for women, and the First World War was no exception. Nearly 25,000 women took an active part in helping the war effort through various roles. Though women did not serve in combat units, they did serve near the frontlines. The Red Cross, for one, provided opportunities to serve as nurses, food distribution, clerks, refugee work, counseling prisoners-of-war, typists, journalists, secretaries, and entertainers. Others worked in the Red Cross Motor Service and acted as drivers behind the lines. On the homefront, many worked as telephone operators known as the famous 'Hello Girls.' Others worked as linguists and translators, or were part of the Hospital and Recreation Corps, which provided recreational activities for wounded vets at hospitals in which they were called 'grey ladies' due to their distinctive grey uniforms. Still others paid visits to military bases and helped combat the horrific 1918 influenza that swept through Europe and the United States. Although a fraction of women pacifists in the National Women's Party opposed the war, the larger organization of the National American Woman Suffrage Movement Association, were patriotic and supported the war and were more representative of women's attitudes.
Between the Wars
The increased role of women in the workforce soon dwindled after the war as normalcy returned. A key victory, though, with the full support of President Woodrow Wilson, who appreciated their wartime efforts, was the landmark 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment, which forbade gender discrimination in voting. Franklin Roosevelt also supported women rights as demonstrated in his appointment of Francis Perkins as the Secretary of Labor, which made her the first female White House cabinet member. Given the backdrop of the Great Depression, she played a high-profile role in his administration. Another prominent woman was the New Yorker, Margaret Sanger, who publicly advocated birth control for women. To publicize her views, she founded The Woman Rebel and The Birth Control Review publications. More significantly, in 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, which became better known as Planned Parenthood in 1942.
Women in the Second World War
Women played a similar role in the Second World War as in the First, but on a grander scale. In all, around 350,000 women served in the armed forces in non-combat roles, and their service proved invaluable. Women, however, became more famous for their work on the homefront. During the war, the percentage of women in the workforce numbered 6 million and increased from 27% to 37% of the domestic labor force. They worked in the manufacturing sectors, industrial plants, aircraft and even tank facilities building planes and war machines for the war effort. So iconic was their role, that the promotional symbol of 'Rosie the Riveter' was popularized to recruit female workers. Women also helped promote bonds drives for fundraising and 'victory gardens' in which the government encouraged private gardens to lessen the pressure of corporate farms in feeding the troops. To assist women with juggling work and child-rearing, the government funded the creation of over 3,000 daycare centers.
In some respects, the public role of women stalled in the decade after the war. Some were cut by their employers, ousted by unions, but others returned home to care for children in the infamous baby boom. A notable achievement though was the former presidential wife, Eleanor Roosevelt's appointment as the Chair of the United Nations Committee on Human Rights which was a highly visible role. The 1960s counter-cultural movement saw the rise of the 'sexual revolution' which challenged traditional social mores on sex and marriage. In general, the decade was characterized by an expansion of civil rights and anti-discrimination laws directed at the eradication of gender and racial discrimination. Betty Friedan thought that progress was too slow and wrote the path-breaking The Feminist Mystique (1963) as a call-to-arms for women for the women's liberation movement. In 1966, she was part of a group of 28 women who founded the National Organization of Women - or NOW - to provide institutional support to women.
The White House and Supreme Court
Changes were certainly afoot in the highest corridors of powers in the nation's capital. History was made in the Reagan administration, as Sandra Day O'Connor became the first female member of the Supreme Court. During the Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State and under George W. Bush administration, Condoleezza Rice became the first female National Security Advisor and later the first female African-American Secretary of State.
The First and Second World Wars proved a springboard in creating a greater public role for women in America. In WWI, women worked in several frontline roles such as refugee work, food distribution, journalists, drivers, entertainers, and as 'Hello Girls.' In WWII, women played similar roles, but on a greater scale in both the domestic and foreign sector as women workers were necessary to fill in the labor gap left by departing men for the warfront. Between the wars, women achieved the right to vote with the 19th Amendment, and Francis Perkins was appointed as Secretary of Labor. In the first decade after the war, women's' advancement stalled a bit, but picked up steam in the 1960s and beyond. Key examples include Eleanor Roosevelt as Chair of the Committee on Human Rights, Betty Friedan's, The Feminist Mystique, (1963), the appointment of Sandra Day O'Connor as the first woman on the Supreme Court, the appointment of Madeline Albright as the first Secretary of State, and an all-around heightened presence in the workforce outside the home.
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