Women played an important role for the United States in World War II. Although they did not enter combat as soldiers, many women helped by serving in the armed forces. They also helped to keep the country together at the home front. Women worked in factories producing ships, tanks, munitions and other much needed products for the war effort.
Poster recruiting women for the armed forces Source: National Archives
Women in the Armed Forces
Many women served in the armed forces during the war. Some served as nurses in the Army Nurse corps. This could be a dangerous job as some nurses worked in hospitals that were close to the war front. They served in a variety of areas including field hospitals, ship hospitals, medical transport planes, and evacuation hospitals. Many soldier's lives were saved by these brave nurses.
Women also served in the Women's Army Corps or WAC. This was a branch of the armed forces started up in 1942. Women served in non-combat areas such as mechanics repairing vehicles, army post offices sorting mail, and working in communications and warning systems. There were 150,000 women in the WAC by the end of the war. They served throughout the military, even landing in Normandy only a few weeks after D-Day.
Nurses in the Army Source: National Archives
At first many men did not want women in the armed forces. It was Eleanor Roosevelt and General George Marshall who eventually got the WAC approved. Later, women troops were such good soldiers that some leaders suggested that women should be drafted.
Women's Air Force Service Pilots
Women also served as pilots as Women's Air Force Service Pilots or WASPs. These were women who already had pilot's licenses. They flew military planes between army bases and flew cargo planes carrying supplies. This freed up male pilots for combat missions.
Rosie the Riveter Source: National Museum of American History
Rosie the Riveter
Perhaps one of the largest contributions of women during World War II was keeping our factories running. With 10 million men in the army, many women were needed to run the country's factories. They produced much needed planes, tanks, warships, guns, and other munitions for the war.
In order to inspire women to work in the factories, the US government came up with the "Rosie the Riveter" campaign. Displayed on posters and magazines, Rosie the Riveter was a character that portrayed a strong patriotic woman who worked in the factories to help the country. There was even a popular song called "Rosie the Riveter". The campaign was successful as hundreds of thousands of women entered the work force taking on jobs that had been previously done by men.
Here are a few of the women from around the world who became famous during World War II:
Eleanor Roosevelt - The First Lady and wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor was a strong supporter of the troops and for civil rights. She opposed the internment camps of the Japanese Americans and was active in boosting moral on the US home front.
Eleanor Roosevelt on a plane Source: National Park Service
Queen Elizabeth - The Queen was a symbol of unity for the British against Hitler. She was a great source of moral for the troops. When she was advised to take her children and flee London, she refused saying that the King would never leave and neither would she.
Tokyo Rose - This was the name given to the Japanese women who voiced radio propaganda to the US Troops fighting Japan. She tried to demoralize the troops by continuously telling them that they could not win the war.
Eva Braun - Eva was Hitler's mistress. She married him at the end of the war, right before they committed suicide together.
Sophie Scholl - Sophie was a German woman who actively opposed the Nazis and the Third Reich. She was arrested for protesting the war and later executed. She is considered a great hero giving her life to try and stop the Nazis.
Anne Frank - Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who became famous for her diaries written while hiding from the Nazis for two years in a secret room. She eventually was caught and died in a concentration camp.