Women in WWII entered the work force in increasing numbers. But for women, working was a two edged sword. While there were given more freedom, women also began to experience the wage gap. Women who were hired in factory jobs were often payed less than the men performing those same jobs. In this post, we will be analyzing various pictures from WWII depicting women entering the work force (pictures are attached at the end). By examining these pictures, we will come to a better understanding of these women and the jobs that they were doing.
The first image is of Rosie the Riveter. She has become the symbol of the WWII working woman. Rosie exemplified women who entered the work force for the first time, taking jobs to protect their soldier husbands and sons. Rosie was the symbol of working grit.
The second image depicts another advertisement woman that encouraged women to enter the work force as well. Like the Rosie the Riveter image, this woman is eating her lunch and toasting her bread with her welding torch. Though comical, this woman shows that women can be homemakers while working in the shops. She appealed to the women who feared entering the work force and leaving their families.
The third image is an example of an advertisement that depicts the dangers women face in the work place. With her hair caught in the machine, this woman represents the underlying idea that women do not belong in the work place. Though the picture was undoubtedly meant to warn women of the dangers of the work place, it also highlights the type of work discrimination women faced. And these women were subject to the ridicule placed upon them by their male superiors. Images like these depict the inabilities of woman and their “clumsiness.” This image represents the ridicule women faced.
The last three images are of women doing their jobs as female welders. The photos show women who are working in men’s roles. Like the more positive image of Rosie the Riveter, these women show the power that women can have in the work force. Unlike the negativity in the previous photograph, these working women promoted the serious nature of the working woman.
But together these images tell a bigger story. Women, entering the work force, experienced the wage gap. Admittedly, some of the problem with the wage gap came because women were entering the work force in unprecedented numbers. However, more than the sheer numbers of women in the work force, WWII women faced the wage gap because of the social stigmas.
As discussed, women faced discrimination in the work place because of their femininity. Women were often not taken seriously and condemned as clumsy. Despite the positive images directed at women, negative images provided plenty of discouragement. These women, entering the work force faced discrimination. Forced into jobs that paid them less than their male co-workers, these women represent some of the first women to face the gender wage gap.
NOTE: I claim no rights to these images. More information on these images can be provided upon request.