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When the United States entered World War II, unprecedented numbers of women entered the ranks of factory workers, helping American industry meet the wartime production demands for planes, tanks, ships, and weapons, as well as filling non war related positions. It was here that the most famous image of female patriotism in World War II emerged, Rosie the Riveter. In 1944, 37 percent of all adult women were employed and comprised 35.4 percent of the civilian labor force.
Rosie the Riveters were largely responsible for keeping the American economy moving forward, and often, these women did it with style. Working male-dominated jobs, many with a labor component, required that many working women don pants, denim, hats, and boots for the first time.
Many women's work wear outfits consisted of altered civilian clothing. Most women found a way to incorporate their personal, often feminine identity into their work-wear. Some women wore latest hair style, accessory, and often heels. Others preferred to adopt the styles of their male counterparts or sometimes wearing their husbands clothing.
These working women changed the norms of fashion forever. The masqulization of feminine styles and feminize-ation of traditional male clothing created classics that can be found in every woman's wardrobe today. For the first time, women working in factories and doing other forms of "men's work" wore trousers when the work demanded it. Most importantly, these working women shifted the trajectory of women into the workforce forever.
While skilled female workers made an average weekly wage of $31.21, skilled male workers earned $54.65 weekly. Regardless of obvious wage divide, between 1943 and 1945 polls indicated that 61 to 85 percent of women workers wanted to keep their jobs after the war (see Hartmann, The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s, 1982).
Photographs courtesy of The Libraby of Congress Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Color Photographs - Compiled photos from for the Office of War Information (OWI) between 1939 and 1944.
"Women are trained to do precise and vital engine installation detail in Douglas Aircraft Company plants, Long Beach, Calif."
"Agnes Cliemka, age 23, married and husband may be going into the service any day."
"American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front..."
"...Publicizing salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company."
"Lunchtime brings Sand bags for protection against air raid form the background."
"One of the girls of Vilter [Manufacturing] Co. filing small gun parts."
"Mrs. Dorothy Lucke, employed as a wiper at the roundhouse, Clinton, Iowa."
"Women wipers of the Chicago and North Western Railroad cleaning one of the giant locomotives..."
This compilation included some snap shots of women that did not get the chance to work for their country. "Japanese-American camp, war emergency evacuation, [Tule Lake Relocation Center, Newell, Calif."
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