January 27, 2013

Bad ass women of WWII

With all that is happening in my life right now, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about struggle and strife and trying to keep things in perspective by reading about women who had things much worse than me, yet triumphed and carved success out of the hand they were dealt.

 In looking at American history- the mid 30's through 40's was a very interesting time for women.  There is a research paper begging to be written here- and when I get back on track with school I will be writing it.   

So this is a long post.  I started at Rosie the Riveter, and ended with pin up art on fighter planes.  The sexism, the rise of feminism, the juxtaposition of the working independent woman versus the objectified pin up on the planes that were killing in the name of "freedom".  I can not wait to write this paper!!  Makes me want to go enroll in American History this semester just so that I can.

In the meantime I will settle for pasting from the Wiki.

Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of the United States, representing the American women who worked in factories during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who were in the military. Rosie the Riveter is commonly used as a symbol of feminism and women's economic power.  A tireless assembly line worker, doing her part to help the American war effort.

Although women took on male dominated trades during World War II, they were expected to return to their everyday housework once men returned from the war. Government campaigns targeting women were addressed solely at housewives, perhaps because already employed women would move to the higher-paid "essential" jobs on their own, perhaps because it was assumed that most would be housewives. One government advertisement asked women "Can you use an electric mixer?  If so, you can learn to operate a drill."  Propaganda was also directed at their husbands, many of whom were unwilling to support such jobs.  Most women opted to do this. Later, many women returned to traditional work such as clerical or administration positions, despite their reluctance to re-enter the lower-paying fields. However, some of these women continued working in the factories.

According to the Encyclopedia of American Economic History, "Rosie the Riveter" inspired a social movement that increased the number of working American women from 12 million to 20 million by 1944, a 57% increase from 1940.  By 1944 only 1.7 million unmarried men between the ages of 20 and 34 worked in the defense industry, while 4.1 million unmarried women between those ages did so.  Although the image of "Rosie the Riveter" reflected the industrial work of welders and riveters during World War II, the majority of working women filled non-factory positions in every sector of the economy. What unified the experiences of these women was that they proved to themselves (and the country) that they could do a "man's job" and could do it well.  In 1942, just between the months of January and July, the estimates of the proportion of jobs that would be "acceptable" for women was raised by employers from 29 to 85%.  African American women were some of those most affected by the need for women workers. It has been said that it was the process of whites working along blacks during the time that encouraged a breaking down of social barriers and a healthy recognition of diversity.

More than 60,000 Army nurses (all military nurses were women at the time) served stateside and overseas during World War II. They were kept far from combat but 67 were captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942 and were held as POWs for over two and a half years. One Army flight nurse was aboard an aircraft that was shot down behind enemy lines in Germany in 1944. She was held as a POW for four months. In 1943 Dr. Margaret Craighill became the first female doctor to become a commissioned officer in the United States Army Medical Corps.

About 150,000 American women served in the WAAC and WAC during World War II. They were the first women other than nurses to serve with the Army.  While conservative opinion in the leadership of the Army and public opinion generally was initially opposed to women serving in uniform, the shortage of men necessitated a new policy. While most women served stateside, some went to various places around the World, including Europe, North Africa and New Guinea. For example, WACs landed on Normandy Beach just a few weeks after the initial invasion.
Many men ferociously opposed allowing women in uniform, warning their sisters and friends they would be seen as lesbians or prostitutes. They feared that if women became soldiers they would no longer serve in a masculine preserve and their masculinity would be devalued. Others feared being sent into combat units if women took over the safe jobs.

Nose art is a decorative painting or design on the fuselage of a military aircraft, usually located near the nose, and is a form of aircraft graffiti.
While begun for practical reasons of identifying friendly units, the practice evolved to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of the military, to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, and as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death. The appeal, in part, came from nose art not being officially approved, even when the regulations against it were not enforced.
Because of its individual and unofficial nature, it is considered folk art, inseparable from work as well as representative of a group. It can also be compared to sophisticated graffiti. In both cases, the artist is often anonymous, and the art itself is ephemeral. In addition, it relies on materials immediately available.
Nose art is largely a military tradition, but civilian airliners operated by the Virgin Group feature "Virgin Girls" on the nose as part of their livery.  There were exceptions, including the 8th Air Force B-17 "Whizzer", which had its girl-riding-a-bomb on the dorsal fin.