Women Perform “Men’s Work” Because of Labor Demands of World War Two

 

 

 

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Turkey Pond, near Concord, New Hampshire. Women workers employed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture timber salvage sawmill. Florence Drouin and Mrs. Elizabeth Esty, pond women, use regular logging pikes to bring the logs into place on the slip. (June 1943. Photo by John Collier, US Office of War Information, courtesy of the Library of Congress).

Many social movements including equality of women, equal rights for African-Americans, Hispanics, even gay people, were given new impetus because of dislocations in traditional society caused by the Second World War.

Many young people, especially males, whose parents or grandparents had never left their home county, ended up in foreign countries or huge industrial cities mixed in with Americans from all over. This widened the vistas of tens of millions.

Turkey Point USDA June 1943

Turkey Pond, near Concord, New Hampshire. Women workers employed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture timber salvage sawmill. Florence Drouin, using a regular logging pike, pushing up onto the slip logs which the pond men have just towed in. (June 1943. Photo by John Collier, US Office of War Information, courtesy of the Library of Congress).

As we would say now, people were “empowered” because of the simple reason that they were needed. Almost 12 million males served in the armed forces of the US during the Second World War along with 400,000 women. To replace these millions of young men and find enough workers to run farms and factories, millions of women began to hold jobs which in the past had been described as “men’s work.”

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June 1943. Turkey Pond, near Concord, New Hampshire. Women workers employed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture timber salvage sawmill. Norman Webber, front, and Ruth De Roche taking the finished boards from the conveyor and piling them according to size in the “pit”. (Photo by John Collier, US Office of War Information, courtesy of the  Library of Congress).

By doing jobs previously held only by white men, heretofore marginalized groups proved they could do much of the same work. After the war, although life went “back to normal”  it actually didn’t. Powerful social movements had been reinvigorated.

Pit-women relaxing after lunch, New Hampshire, June 1943

June 1943. “Turkey Pond, near Concord, New Hampshire. Women workers employed by U.S. Department of Agriculture timber salvage sawmill. Ruth DeRoche and Norma Webber, 18-year-old ‘pit-women,’ relaxing after lunch.”  (June 1943. Photo by John Collier, US Office of War Information, courtesy of the Library of Congress).

(I think these women could have drunk some of my frat brothers under the table).

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Turkey Pond, near Concord, New Hampshire. Women workers employed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture timber salvage sawmill. Mrs. Elizabeth Esty and Florence Drouin, “pond women,” pulling up logs towed in by the men.  (June 1943. Photo by John Collier, US Office of War Information, courtesy of the Library of Congress).

 

 

 

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/