Effect of World War II on Women in the US becoming Participants in the Labor Force

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An Investigation Into: To what extent did World War II lead to women in the United States to enter and become permanent participants of the labor force?

Section 1: Identification and Evaluation of sources: (Word Count 723)

 This investigation will explore the question: To what extent did World War II lead to women in the United States to enter and become permanent participants of the labor force?

The years 1940 to 1947 will be the focus of this investigation, to allow for an analysis of the extent to which women evolved in the workforce, as well as its evolution of the woman post World War II. Mary Anderson’s “The Postwar Role of American Women.”  and Claudia D. Goldin, “The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women’s Employment.” are sources of particular value to this investigation due to the insight they give into the inner workings of women in the work force during and post-World War II. The sources above demonstrate the experiences of women in the work place as well as statistics relating to the impact of post-world war on women’s progressive work force movement. This, therefore aids our understanding of the nature the labor forces ideologies and, further to this, whether women received permeant residency in the labor force post-World War II.

 The source of “The Postwar Role of American Women.” By Mary Anderson, is crucial to my investigation because of the extensive background on women after World War II, and women’s fight to remain in the labor force. She accounts extensive knowledge from the moment war veterans begin to pour back into the United States, to the declination of women in certain factories and fields. This source also holds great value when looking at the question of whether denying women in the work place played a key role in the rise into the progressive women’s movement developing in the country. Therefore, the usage of the journal article by Mary Anderson has strengths that provide crucial evidence on the development of women in becoming permanent residents in the labor force.

 However, this source also has limitations that affect its usefulness. One limitation is the fact that it may give an opinionated interpretation of post-world war women’s suffrage. Mary Anderson was a participant of the movement toward women’s suffrage in the work place. Since Mary Anderson has a direct relationship to the movement, her main focus on how women were rejected the opportunities post World War II can be seen as biased. In addition, she had a connection to the Women’s U.S Department of Labor[1] only supporting the previous statement of here research being biased. Even though she is a qualified specialist in her field of the social impact of women post world war two, since she lived through it, her professional connections and personal bias plays a role in the validity of her work.

 The source of “The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women’s Employment.” by Claudia D. Goldin, is crucial to my investigation because of the extensive background on the rise of women in the workforce during the second world war. The author of this article is Claudia D. Goldin, a well-educated expert Professor of Economics at Harvard University and director of the Development of the American Economy program at the National Bureau of Economic Research.[2] She has extensive credible knowledge on the economic development of the time era, and the development of women during the second world war. Furthermore, this extensive knowledge has validity in the sense as she is most known for her research of women in the work force.[3] The source of Claudia Goldin will be crucial to my investigation.

 However, Claudia Goldin’s work does have limitations. Goldin has worked extensively in other fields. Her research covers a diverse range of topics, including the female labor force, immigration, income inequality, technological change, education, and the economic gender gap. and movement people, which could influence her research in the women’s labor field during World War II.[4] This is a small limitation to the overarching strength of her research, but a limitation that could potentially create continuity errors in her writing and more importantly research. To conclude, the research article of Claudia Goldin is essential to the Historical Investigation.

Section 2: Investigation: (Word Count 931)

 The entry of the United States in World War II was a huge turning point for women in society. There was a dramatic increase in female participation in the American labor force during the early 1940s. As quoted by Kim B. Clark, between 1939 and 1945, women’s participation in the workforce rose by 25.5% a change affecting women of all ages and races.[5]The participation of women in the labor force, was most notable in countless factors across the United States, ranging from steel production, to textile production.[6] The second world war was partially responsible for the needed incorporation of women into the American labor force. Moreover, as women began to imbed themselves in the workforce, they spearheaded a movement for higher and fair wages for workers in the factories.  The war led to increased labor requirements across the economy and to higher wages in general and specifically for women and other low-wage workers.[7] Even though women saw themselves as the backbone of America during the second world war, historians disagree on the extent to which these changes had long-term effects. While some refer to this war as a necessary event which lead to the permanent incorporation of women into the labor force, others refute this statement by arguing that the war’s influence on women’s employment was only temporary and that we still need to move towards better efforts for women.[8]

 Women in the workforce would be challenged in the year 1945 when the war would end, with Japanese and German surrenders to the allied powers. On the one hand, 75% of women who had been employed during the war years intended to continue working after the conflict[9] and, according to estimates, three million women would leave the jobs acquired during the second world war, whereas fifteen million women would remain in the labor force in the post-war period.[10] Many women struggled to keep their jobs as the veterans began to pour into the country. They protested that they should have their jobs because of their success with in the war itself. Since there was such a male dominance with in the United States government, the women were easily overtaken in speech, significance, and priority. Also, the women population in the United States took a heavy blow in the preceding years after the second world war.

In 1947, for example, the participation of women in the labor force had declined by 13%[11] and about half of the women who had entered the labor force during the war left it shortly after 1944, with five million of the wartime entrants leaving labor force by February 1945.[12] The participation of women aged twenty to twenty-four in the workforce fell from 52.4% to 42% in the April 1944-1946 period, and that of women aged twenty-five to thirty-four fell from 35.3% to 22% in the same one-year period.[13] Women in the war industries were particularly affected, with the number of female autoworkers falling by 16.5% between 1942 and 1947[14] and another

700,000 workers being laid off by the air-craft industry.[15] The above figures mentioned

indicate that a majority of the women workforce was laid off when a male dominance emerged. Jobs once offered during the war period disappeared at its conclusion, and, consequently, the women who participated in the work force during the hard-fought war. The years of commitment only constituted a small percentage of the late postwar employment. This suggests that the progressive movements in the labor force brought about by the war, were only temporary than expected. Although the conclusion of the second world war did not give all women a permanent residency in the work force, it accelerated the feminization of the U.S. labor force and increased

employment amongst women as a whole.

Section 3: Reflection: (Word Count 470)

During this investigation my research was based around the question: To what extent did World War II lead to women in the United States to enter and become permanent participants of the labor force? Through this investigation, I have been able to gain valuable knowledge pertaining to specific research methods used by historians, as well as the perseverance historians face when carrying out historical investigations or historical analysis. The purpose of one’s Historical Investigation is to enhance one’s skills on researching and evaluating sources. When writing the Historical Investigation, I realized that each and every historian has a completely different perspective from another one. Therefore, I learned multiple fundamental principles of studying history from analyzing multiple perspectives, learn how to evaluate sources, present different points of view on the topic of choice, and conjure a justified conclusion. Through my investigation, I was able to understand and apply these fundamental principles in my writing.

 When first analyzing the sources I gathered, I had a preconceived perception of women in the workforce post-World War II. In saying this, I originally used my own bias and knowledge into my evaluation of sources, and writing. It wasn’t until I could see the bias in my writing that I saw the importance of abandoning prior knowledge. Prior knowledge contains bias; therefore, it is crucial to base all analysis through the sources and articles I researched. This epiphany also allowed me to realize the struggles of historians when researching, presenting, and analyzing relevant and unbiased information. When one’s bias is associated heavily with their research or fundamental idea, then their value as a source immediately decreases. Moreover, I learned that in history there is no absolute truth or one acceptable answer to a problem or question. The job of the historian is to find the most ‘acceptable version’ in relevance to his or her problem or question. This often involves assessing the values and limitations of the sources at hand to find a version that is more closely aligned with the truth. Furthermore, assessing the limitations and strengths relates to a previous struggle of mine. This struggle is my habit of using one source as a basis of my argument instead of a myriad of sources. Using a plethora of sources not only improves the value of writing, but also the quality of work. Therefore, the assessment of sources is a key component to have a successful, accurate, and unbiased Historical Investigation.

 Throughout the investigation, I constantly was going back to old and new sources evaluating their significance in relevance to my question. In saying this, certain sources I gathered were used in the Historical Investigation while others were left out. All in all, through my trials and tribulations during the Historical Investigation, I gained a greater appreciation and understanding to the process of historical analysis.

Works Cited

  • Clark, Kim B., and Lawrence H. Summers. “Labor Force Participation: Timing and Persistence.” The Review of Economic Studies, vol. 49, no. 5, 1982, pp. 825–844. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2297190.
  • Goldin, Claudia D. “The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women’s Employment.” The American Economic Review, vol. 81, no. 4, 1991, pp. 741–756. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2006640.
  • Anderson, Mary. “The Postwar Role of American Women.” The American Economic Review, vol. 34, no. 1, 1944, pp. 237–244. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1818698.
  • SANGSTER, JOAN. “Mobilizing Women for War.” Canada and the First World War: Essays in Honor of Robert Craig Brown, edited by David Mackenzie, University of Toronto Press, 2005, pp. 157–193. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1287rrg.12.
  • Engel, Jeffrey A., et al., editors. “World War II.” America in the World: A History in Documents from the War with Spain to the War on Terror, STU – Student edition ed., Princeton University Press, 2014, pp. 131–156. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wpzgf.10.
  • ZOELLNER, DON. “The Post–World War Two Period to 1978.” Vocational Education and Training: The Northern Territory’s History of Public Philanthropy, ANU Press, Acton ACT, Australia, 2017, pp. 57–98. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1pwtd3q.10
  • KAROLY, LYNN A., and CONSTANTIJN W. A. PANIS. “SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHIC PARAMETERS SHAPING THE FUTURE WORKFORCE.” The 21st Century at Work: Forces Shaping the Future Workforce and Workplace in the United States, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA, 2004, pp. 15–78. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg164dol.11.
  • Meskill, David. “Promoting a Skilled Workforce.” Optimizing the German Workforce: Labor Administration from Bismarck to the Economic Miracle, NED – New edition, 1 ed., Berghahn Books, New York; Oxford, 2010, pp. 42–66. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qdd9p.7.
  • “MARY ANDERSON, EX‐U.S. AIDE, DIES; Directed Women’s Bureau in Labor Department.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Jan. 1964, www.nytimes.com/1964/01/30/archives/mary-anderson-exus-aide-dies-directed-womens-bureau-in-labor.html.
  • “Claudia Goldin.” Michael Morse, Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, scholar.harvard.edu/goldin/home.

[1] “MARY ANDERSON, EX‐U.S. AIDE, DIES; Directed Women’s Bureau in Labor Department.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Jan. 1964, www.nytimes.com/1964/01/30/archives/mary-anderson-exus-aide-dies-directed-womens-bureau-in-labor.html.

[2] “Claudia Goldin.” Michael Morse, Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung,

scholar.harvard.edu/goldin/home.

[3] “Claudia Goldin.” Michael Morse, Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung,

scholar.harvard.edu/goldin/home.

[4] “Claudia Goldin.” Michael Morse, Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung,

scholar.harvard.edu/goldin/home.

[5] Kim B. Clark, and Lawrence H. Summers. “Labor Force Participation: Timing and

Persistence.” The Review of Economic Studies, vol. 49, no. 5, 1982, Pp. 826. JSTOR, JSTOR,

www.jstor.org/stable/2297190.

[6] Mary Anderson. “The Postwar Role of American Women.” The American Economic Review,

vol. 34, no. 1, 1944, pp. 239. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1818698.

[7] Claudia D. Goldin, “The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women’s Employment.” The

American Economic Review, vol. 81, no. 4, 1991, pp. 741–756. JSTOR, JSTOR,

www.jstor.org/stable/2006640. Pp. 753

[8] Claudia D. Goldin, “The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women’s Employment.” Pp. 741

[9] JOAN SANGSTER. “Mobilizing Women for War.” Canada and the First World War: Essays in Honor of Robert Craig Brown, edited by David Mackenzie, University of Toronto Press, 2005, pp. 158. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1287rrg.12.

[10] Jeffrey A Engel., et al., editors. “World War II.” America in the World: A History in Documents from the War with Spain to the War on Terror, STU – Student edition ed., Princeton University Press, 2014, pp. 131 JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wpzgf.10.

[11] DON ZOELLNER, “The Post–World War Two Period to 1978.” Vocational Education and Training: The Northern Territory’s History of Public Philanthropy, ANU Press, Acton ACT, Australia, 2017, pp. 56. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1pwtd3q.10.

[12] DON ZOELLNER, “The Post–World War Two Period to 1978.” Pp. 57

[13] LYNN A. KAROLY, and CONSTANTIJN W. A. PANIS. “SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHIC

PARAMETERS SHAPING THE FUTURE WORKFORCE.” The 21st Century at Work: Forces Shaping the Future Workforce and Workplace in the United States, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA, 2004, pp. 25. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg164dol.11.

[14] LYNN A. KAROLY, and CONSTANTIJN W. A. PANIS. “SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHIC PARAMETERS SHAPING THE FUTURE WORKFORCE.” Pp. 30

[15] David Meskill. “Promoting a Skilled Workforce.” Optimizing the German Workforce: Labor

Administration from Bismarck to the Economic Miracle, NED – New edition, 1 ed., Berghahn

Books, New York; Oxford, 2010, pp. 46. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qdd9p.7.

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