How Propaganda Affected Women in WW2 


The onset of the second world war resulted in significant disruption of the social status quo in many communities around the world. So many resources were channeled cowards fighting. Vast numbers of youthful and able men who were instrumental in providing the booming industries across Europe and America become recruited to serve in their various militaries. At the same time, scores of these fighters were lost in the war thus creating a demand for more military personnel. Different countries mobilized both men and women to serve in various capacities to ensure their economies that were under threat in the face of the disruptive second world war was maintained.

Men were mobilized through anticlastic propaganda to exhibit their patriotism by becoming enlisted in their militaries. Women, on the other hand, become mobilized to occupy the vacuum left by the fighting men in industries and income-generating endeavors. The Second World War, therefore, contributed significantly to a shift in the traditionally held gender roles.

Before the war, women had largely played the role of taking care of homes, bearing and taking care of children among other stereotypes gender roles traditionally associated with women. Men on the other hand were largely perceived to be the breadwinners and protectors of their homes. The Seconds World War (WW2) was thus compelling government to mobilize women to assist in sustaining economies. Women were informed that the war was not merely an endeavor to be addressed by their male counterparts. Women too had a role to play in different capacities.

The paper, therefore, intends s to deeply delve into the impacts the WW2 propaganda campaigns had on women.

Since the Colonial period up to about 1940s, the majority of Americans were convinced that the natural environment in which a woman thrived is with her family at home.WW2, however, resulted in disruptive changes that altered the status quo. The government aggressively employed propaganda that emphasized the need women be more involved in income generating ventures during the war. Millions of women, therefore, were recruited into factories thus demystifying the traditionally held gender perspectives. While the propaganda campaigns were immensely successful in assisting the government to achieves its objective of stating America’s economy, it equally brought a lasting alteration to gender roles.

Propaganda channels that were used by the government included advertisements, magazine articles, radio programs, and posters. For the first time, women were depicted working in factory lines in overalls with their hand considerably greasy. Using these propaganda tools, numerous agencies including the Office of War Information encouraged women to shift from the kitchens to factories. The propaganda equally encouraged women to be more enthusiasm for consumers and nurses. Active consumption would sustain the economy as working women bough government bond ensuring the government had sufficient financial resources to sustain the war. Scores of injured military personnel who were shipped back home needed the even more nurses to assist in recovery.

In the decades before WW2, the great depression limited economic activities thus resulting in considerably few employment positions. Men, therefore, monopolized the limited employment positions available thus becoming the breadwinners in their families. The trend created a rigid social bias thus limited women from venturing into active income generating ventures. Some states have passed legislation barring married women from accessing jobs. It was thus considerably challenging [particularly for mid-class working women to access viable employment positions. In the onset of the second world war, single women and poor women were quickly absorbed into America’s labor system. Middle-class unmarried women remain an untapped labor resource at thus junctures.

To achieve optimal success in mobilizing these women, the government through agencies like The United States Office of War Information (OWI) to decimate propaganda encourage women’s involvement in employment While advertising increased, wages would have been an effective mobilization tool. Such an approach would have easily resulted in increased spending thus contributing to inflation. The government therefore exclusively adhered to emotional appeals and personal patriotism.

The patriot appeal has two essential features. ‘Do your ‘approach was the initial phase. The following part was a warning reminding women of the potential negative impact of their failure to do their part’ a soldier may die.’ Women were equally sensitized that their contribution would result in a more expeditious win in the war. As at the mid-1942 between 150,000 and 200 000 women were being employed in America’s labor market every month. As at September 1943, over ten million men had been recruited into the war, and a majority of the rest who remained were already in employment. WW2 compelled America to engage in one of the most aggressive production campaigns throughout history. Japan and America have already amassed their weapon for the past ten years, and now America had to measure up. Women were therefore essential in the production of the weapons that ultimately contributed towards America’s success in the war. Topics on war strategies that targeted women were issued by OWI in magazines, radio commentators and magazines.

As of 1941 (December), about 12 million women had been employed. The number increased by 35% early the following year (sixteen million). The transition was not as smooth as the integration of women into the labor market created vacuums in their domestic responsibilities. The most challenging was childcare. The relatively limited technology in laundry and cooing demanded that women still dedicate a significant amount of their time to protect their homes. Gas rationing and lack of rubber resulted in significant errors in the transportation industry. Majority of women however resided in semi rural areas thus limiting their efficient and timely access to work or voyage back home. Women who owned cars gave rides to their counterparts to work and back home.

It is vital to note that the propaganda campaigns greatly undermined concerns over the negative impact of WW2. Instead of seeking effective and fast ways of de escalating the war and thus preventing its negative effects, women were encouraged to dedicate all their efforts to help the government achieve its objective. Many financial resources were therefore directed in the development of military resources such as weapons. Numerous women selflessly committed all their efforts to their professional duties as well as their domestic responsibilities back at home. While dedicating all their effort to meet their countries needs, women were still encouraged to be frugal in their use of resources to ensure military forces could be sustained.

Volunteer works

WW2 significantly attained America’s economic resources. Limited farming ventures and lack of peace in the rest of the world resulted in limited availability of food resources. Food reserves thus rationed available food resources. The government came up with the Women’s Land Arm (WLA), a volunteer program. WLA was involved in a large-scale volunteer farm work program to help improve food sustainability in the country. Some farm owners were, however, reluctant to use WLA services as city girls were hardly considered to have any productive potential in farmlands. Women were, however, the only labor resource at their disposal. The volunteer program achieved a 14% increase in food production by the initial summer of the war.

The propaganda instruments sensitized women to be more frugal in their use of resources like cotton, rubber, tea, silk, wool, coffee, and beef. Women were essential in the rationing programs since they are the core consumers in their family structures. Other women were involved in nursery programs where children received care as their mothers toiled in different areas across the country.

Serving in the Military

The Second World War also saw the induction of women into armed service. The move was certainly a radical shift in the perceptions previously held towards women. In early 1942 the House of Representatives passes a bill that resulted in the formation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Later in July the following year, the auxiliary status of the group was dropped making women full active participants in America’s military ventures. The Navy later came up with Women Accepted or Voluntary emergency service. Such changes in America’s Military service were in response to the need to replenish the country’s military personnel. The war was claiming a score of serving military men while maiming others hence the need to train and integrate women into active services. The movies that were developed during this [period were instrumental in motivating women to join the military. Magazines and Newspapers also used to glamorize military life. While the number of women that were initially recruited into various military branches was relatively small. They were the pioneer that paved the way for the later inclusion of more women in the military service.

WW2 propaganda alters the status quo about gender roles. The inclusion of women in the labor market contributed to the later emergence of the feminist movement that demanded equal access to employment opportunities. Fictional propaganda characters like Rosie the Riveter were very instrumental in later creating a vocal wave of feminist who viciously fought the limitation women faced in their strive to access equal employment situation in places of work. Even with the increased inclusion of women in the labor market during WW2, it is important to note that glass ceiling continued to bar women from accessing leadership positions in the chosen areas of endeavor. A negligible number of women were included in top management positions as well as political leadership positions.

The feminist movement was motivated by the societies desire to restrict them to domestic responsibilities after WW2 once again. Men returned were natural being rewarded with employment positions. Due to the limited availability of employment positions, women were encouraged to relinquish their employment position to war veterans. Women who made an effort to hold onto their employment positions were being shamed into compliance. The intensive propaganda campaigns had however created a lasting impression on women who became eager that ever before to be employed. Groups of women labor unions and other activists create groups that championed for the equality of women. Images like Rosie the Riveter shifted from being propaganda instruments to active feminism icons. The impact that the propaganda campaigns had on women affected the fundamental essence of America’s social fabric. Women were for instance images of women wearing pant for instance transformed commence social values as reserved domestic workers who were expected to be entirely loyal to their husbands. Many single women chose to peruse their career not being eager to enter into marriage and thus fully depend upon their husband for financial support. It was certainly challenging to force women back into their previous traditional kitchen and home roles. Even women who had children took temporary breaks from their employment before getting back to employment. Organizations championing for the rights of women commenced to actively lobby for the formulation of legislation that would ensure organizations employed a fair amount of both men and women. Additionally, the propaganda waves equally resulted in the pressure on legislators and the government to come up with special rights for women in their employment such as maternity leaves.

After WW2, America was engrossed in a jubilant celebration ignorant of the fact that their intensive propaganda campaigns would forever alter America’s social structure. The public opinion on the gender roles had forever been altered women started on a long and painful journey to have not only equal opportunity to employment but also equal employment benefits. The propaganda campaigns had been careful to depict women as industrious and confident but also feminine and dedicated to their domestic chores. Employment, however, gave women access to a lot of independence as they had their money and could relatively do as they please. In a desire to improve their suitability to get employment more women, choose to advance their education even to tertiary levels. Increased access to education equally drove women away from their traditional domestic roles. The return of soldiers after the WW2 resulted in a rise in birth rates and many women who were working were coaxed into relinquishing their employment positions. Women were now urged to go back home and rest as they celebrate their efforts. Women were equally encouraged to use the money they had generated in buying household items that would make their domestic roles more effectively. It was however clear that the war had forever terraformed America’s female population.


Forced to enter into the second world war, America enlisted a significant number of into male population in the military. The country however still needed to sustain its economic resources and sustain its ambitious military expedition. America, therefore, contracted agencies such as The United States Office of War Information to increase the role of women in income generating ventures. More women were recruited in factories producing weapons used by military campaigns all over the world. Other women served as nurses who attended to injured members of the armed forces brought back home. Women equally took part in food production thus feeding the country. The campaigns equally contributed to the inclusion of women in the military as active serving participants. The propaganda campaigns were escalated and ultimately terminated after the war. Women were encouraged to reassume their domestic roles and allow men to be the breadwinners in households; The WW2 propaganda campaigns, however, changed the traditional perceptions with which women were perceived there were developments in feminist groups that campaigned for gender equality. Some women choose to focus on their professional career and their education.


  1. Basinger, Jeanine. ‘The Wartime American Woman on Film.’ A Companion to the War Film (2016): 89.
  2. Brock, Julia, Jennifer W. Dickey, Richard Harker, and Catherine Lewis, eds. Beyond Rosie: A Documentary History of Women and World War II. University of Arkansas Press, 2015.
  4. McEuen, Melissa A. ‘Women, Gender, and World War II.’ In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. 2016.
  5. Ryan, Kathleen M. ‘Military Life: Coordinating WWII Magazine Publicity by the US Naval Women’s Reserve.’ Journalism History 40, no. 4 (2015): 217.
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