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Women and World War II

How Women's Lives Changed in World War II


Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

Image courtesy of US National Archives. Modifications © Jone Lewis 2001.

Women's lives changed in many ways during World War II. As with most wars, many women found their roles and opportunities -- and responsibilities -- expanded. Husbands went to war or went to work in factories in other parts of the country, and the wives had to pick up their husbands' responsibilities. With fewer men in the workforce, women filled more traditionally-male jobs. In the military, women were excluded from combat duty, so women were called on to fill some jobs that men had performed, to free men for combat duty. Some of those jobs took women near or into combat zones, and sometimes combat came to civilian areas, so some women died.

While many of the resources on the Internet, and on this site, address American women, they were by no means unique in being affected by and playing key roles in the war. Women in other Allied and Axis countries were also affected. Some ways in which women were affected were specific and unusual (the "comfort women" of China and Korea, Jewish women and the Holocaust, for example). In other ways, there were either somewhat similar or parallel experiences (British, Soviet, and American women pilots). In still other ways, experience crossed borders and characterized the experience in most parts of the war-affected world (dealing with rationing and shortages, for instance).

For a general overview on World War II, to put women's contributions in context, see World War II History and The Second World War in Europe.

For more about the experience of women in World War II, see the links below.

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Women's History
  4. Women in the Military, Women in Wartime
  5. Women and World War II
  6. How Women's Lives Changed in World War II

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