• For Teachers & Students
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Women at War
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The Role of Women in WWII

American women were instrumental in the war effort during WWII. With ever-growing orders for war materials combined with so many men overseas fighting the war, women were called upon to work in ways previously reserved only for men. While the most famous image of female patriotism during WWII is Rosie the Riveter, women were involved in other aspects of the war effort outside of factories. More than six million women took wartime jobs in factories, three million volunteered with the Red Cross, and over 200,000 served in the military. Women’s auxiliary branches were created for every branch of the military, including the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Women were restricted from combat zones; however, many became nurses to help the men injured in combat.

When the war ended, a majority of women wanted to keep their jobs and their new-found economic and social independence, but nearly all were laid off, as orders for war materials decreased and millions of men returned home from military service seeking jobs. Did women’s WWII experiences help spur the Women’s Rights movement of the 1960s? Most historians say “not really”; it was the Civil Rights movement that helped to spur the drive for equality for women. The years immediately following World War II actually saw a resurgence of women taking on more traditional roles as wives and mothers.

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Secondary Sources

Her War: American Women in WWII by Kathryn S. Dobie and Eleanor Lang

On Silver Wings: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, 1942-1944 by Marianne Verges

American Women and World War II by Doris Weatherford

Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin

Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II by Penny Colman

Those Incredible Women of WWII by Karen Zeinert

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Primary Source Gallery:

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Related Resources from the Museum

Focus On: Women at War - A comprehensive page featuring artifacts, oral histories and more from The National WWII Museum's collection

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Student Travel – WWII Educational Tours
High school and college students, learn the leadership principles that helped win WWII on a trip to France or during a weeklong residential program in New Orleans. College credit is available, and space is limited.

See You Next Year! HS Yearbooks from WWII
Collected from across the United States, the words and pictures of these yearbooks present a new opportunity to experience the many challenges, setbacks and triumphs of the war through the eyes of America’s youth.

The Victory Gardens of WWII
Visit the Classroom Victory Garden Project website to learn about food production during WWII, find lesson plans and activities for elementary students, get tips for starting your own garden and try out simple Victory Garden recipes!

The Science and Technology of WWII
Visit our new interactive website to learn about wartime technical and scientific advances that forever changed our world. Incorporates STEM principles to use in the classroom.

Kids Corner: Fun and Games!
Make your own propaganda posters, test your memory, solve puzzles and more! Learn about World War II and have fun at the same time.

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