Work, Duty, Glamour: How They Sold War Work To Housewives

Ive found the job where I fit best

Rosie the Riveter is an American icon that symbolizes the hardworking and self-sacrificing women who left the household and filled the war jobs that turned America into WWII’s “Arsenal of Democracy.” Most people’s visualization of Rosie is based on J. Howard Miller’s poster “We Can Do It!” Lacking copyright protection, it’s everywhere from history textbooks to coffee mugs. (I confess to using it for my cover below) But it’s a much bigger story than Rosie. The era is rich with public domain films, posters, pamphlets and cartoons that provide the contemporary reader with insights into the gender, race and class stereotypes of the period.

recruiting rosie cover

I’ve been exploring Homefront America WWII in three media-rich, multi-touch iBooks – Why We Fight, Workers Win the War, and now Recruiting Rosie: The Sales Pitch That Won a War. (All are free at iTunes.)

The Homefront series use WWII-era media to document the US government’s propaganda efforts. “Recruiting Rosie” focusses on how Washington’s media campaign targeted women – first coaxed them out of their homes to fill the jobs left vacant by men going off to war – then reversed course four years later to convince women to give up their factory jobs to returning servicemen and return to the roles of wife and mother in the home.

While there was great diversity in the women who did war work, the media campaign almost exclusively featured white women.

Women have always been employed in the workplace, especially minority and lower-income women. They needed little encouragement to move to higher paying war jobs. But the demand for wartime labor was so great that the US government launched a propaganda campaign to recruit previously unemployed middle class women into the workplace.

I'm proud... my husband wants me to do my part2

There was little reference to women working to make money – not traditionally an acceptable role for married middle class woman. Instead, propaganda was filled with themes of patriotism, sacrifice and duty that depicted war work and military service as fashionable and glamorous.

The documents in “Recruiting Rosie” explore the many facets of the campaign to mobilize women in WWII. For example, an often neglected part of the story is the extensive effort that was put into convincing factory owners and male co-workers that women could make efficient employees. As a foreman at an aircraft factory noted, “I honestly don’t believe any of us expected them [the women workers] to last the day.”

“Women scare me … at least they do in a factory.”

“Supervising Women Workers” a 1944 film designed to train plant managers opens with a male foreman telling his boss “women scare me … at least they do in a factory.” His boss replies “women are not naturally familiar with mechanical principles or machines .. you have to separate every job into simple operating steps.”

women want to get it over-4

A 1943 article called “Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees” includes:

Tip #1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they’re less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn’t be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

Tip #3. General experience indicates that “husky” girls — those who are just a little on the heavy side — are more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

WWII-era middle class couples needed to be convinced that it was acceptable and safe for women to take jobs outside the house and work in a factory. A well-coordinated sales campaign churned out films, new stories and posters that lauded former housewives who readily mastered new industrial tasks.

It's Your War TooWomen were also needed to fill the ranks of many service jobs on the homefront, as well as enlist in the military to replace men who were being moved to the war front. The glamour of travel and the chance to meet men reoccur as dominant themes. “Its Your War Too” a recruitment film for the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) spends much of the film proving that WACs are fun, feminine, and glamorous – they get to wear makeup, choose their own hairstyles, and travel the world – always with handsome male officers as escorts.

Free Bomber Trip to Berlin

Out of the Frying Pan Into the Firing Line

WWII required an enormous commitment of American resources and labor. Here at home, millions of families were called upon to make personal sacrifices and work harder to provide the resources needed to fight the war. Women were told to give up all luxuries and devote their energies to help win the war. “Recruiting Rosie” documents it all from asking women to volunteer on farms to a 1942 Minnie Mouse cartoon explaining how to recycle used cooking fats for armaments.

victory girl

With women stretched between the demands of the workplace and home, childcare emerged as critical issue. “Recruiting Rosie” includes a section detailing the growing fears that without parental supervision, WWII would spawn a generation of juvenile delinquents. As one report noted, “Mothers in large numbers are engaged in full-time employment and are therefore absent from the home the greater part of the day. Home life is greatly changed for many children today, and lack of consistent guidance and supervision from their parents gives them opportunities for activities that may lead to unacceptable behavior.”

“How well a man fights depends a little on how well you’ve done your part in the USO and how nearly ideal an American girl you are.”

“Recruiting Rosie” features a 1943 film that depicts youngsters smoking, kids hanging out in shady bars listening to the jukebox, and young women taking up with soldiers as “Victory Girls.” “How well a man fights depends a little on how well you’ve done your part in the USO and how nearly ideal an American girl you are.” Changing sexual roles and mores of the era are explored in variety of documents from soldier-crazy “khaki-wacky” girls to a 1943 etiquette guide for teenage girls serving as junior hostesses for troops relaxing at USOs which states, “How well a man fights depends a little on how well you’ve done your part in the USO and how nearly ideal an American girl you are.”

last chance marriage

War production demanded large-scale migrations to industrial centers. With a shutdown of non-military construction, housing was limited and expensive. The wartime challenges to families are well detailed in “Recruiting Rosie.” Men and women were torn between putting marriage off or hastily “tying the knot.”

This dynamic is captured in the 1944 US War Department pamphlet “Can War Marriages be made to Work?” (illustration at left)

Front_Cover

“Recruiting Rosie” concludes with the dramatic about-face as the war came to a close. The focus shifted to fears of unemployment for returning servicemen. A 1944 pamphlet entitled “Do You Want Your Wife to Work After the War?” opens with:

Will wives be only too glad to give up their strenuous jobs in war plants to return to the job of being homemakers? … If they must or prefer to stay at home again what will be done to make the tasks of homemaking more attractive? If a woman wants to keep on working after the war what will her husband’s attitude be? If there are no longer jobs enough for everyone should a married woman be allowed to work? Does she have as much right as her husband to try to find the work she wants?

The collection is designed to allow the student to “be the historian” as thought-provoking questions guide them through the archives while building their critical thinking / Common Core skills. The book also provides web access to the public domain content so they can remix the historic documents into their own projects.

how to interpret a poster

Document analysis guides are provided in the book. “Stop and Think” prompts accompany the documents and guide student in close reading to reflect on essential questions:

  1. How did WWII impact women and the American family? What opportunities and challenges did the war create for women?
  2. How did the US government craft its propaganda campaign to shape the attitudes of women, their husbands and employers?
  3. How do the documents and their WWII-era depictions of women reflect the historic time period?

How to Integrate Document-Based History with the Common Core

CCSS offers an incentive for teachers to use historic documents to build literacy skills in a content area while empowering students to be the historian in the classroom. But document-based (DBQ) instruction in this context requires four key elements to be successful:

  1. The right documents.
  2. Knowing how to look at them.
  3. Letting students discover their own patterns, then asking students to describe, compare and defend what they found.
  4. Basing the task on enduring questions, the kind that students might actually want to answer.

My just-published, second iBook – Workers Win the War: Toil and Sacrifice on the US Homefront – embodies that approach. Free at iTunes. It features:

Engaging source material that can be easily interpreted by students. Too often, DBQs use documents that require too much background knowledge to “interpret.” This collection offers over 60 pages of easy-to-intrepret media, much of it visual –  including 80 posters, 18 films, cartoons, radio broadcast, recording and sheet music and a dozen rarely-seen pamphlets.

Why should I work any harder

An interactive primary source analysis tool developed by the Library of Congress. Poster and film analysis is modeled in an multi-touch widget. Students can use an iPad-friendly historic document guide to analyze all the source material and share their observations with peers and teachers.

All across the curriculum, students are told to “analyze” material, but their thinking is constrained by the mandated Venn diagram or T-chart. Developing a comparative schema is messy work – but that’s where the learning takes place. To scaffold student analysis, “Workers Win the War” features CCSS-based prompts that ask students to stop and think more deeply about the content.

any-bonds-today

Essential questions that make an examination of the US homefront in WWII relevant to students’ lives today. Students experience first-hand how the government mobilized public support for the war through higher taxes, hard work and sacrifice.

Contrast that era with our “homefront” experience today, when only our troops and their families have been asked to make sacrifices for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today many see “big government” as an intrusion in their lives. In contrast, during WWII Washington played a very active role shaping American behavior and attitudes in support of hard work and sacrifice in support of the war effort.

Workers Win the War examines the themes of hard work and sacrifice through a variety of perspectives – increasing industrial production, food as weapon, worker health and safety, making do with less, scrap drives, rationing, price controls, and financing the war with higher taxes and bond drives.

Have you really tried

Students will enjoy the content: Cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck and Daffy. Films and posters that equated sick days and long work breaks as near treason. Long-forgotten pamphlets that coached volunteer bond salesmen or advised school principals on how to organize a paper scrap drive – “turn your students into Paper Troopers!” Posters that chided “foolish women” who ignored price ceilings – “Why Shouldn’t I Buy it? I’ve got the Money!”

My favorite is a short film that features two spunky young working women who set out to buy some steak in violation of rationing limits. It turns into a nightmare sequence that demonstrates “rationing means a fair share for all.”

Prices Unlimited

Rationing_means_a_fair_share

To deepen their understanding of the historic content and hone their Common Core skills, students need a chance to create a unique product to demonstrate their learning. With that goal in mind, Workers Win the War has been designed to leverage the content-production capacity of the iPad.

All of the historic content in the iBook is in the public domain. Each source document is hyperlinked back to archives that provide access to the digital content. Students can easily remix the historic documents into their own galleries and projects.

Why Do Teachers Ask Questions They Know the Answers To?

The Future will not be multiple choice
The Future will not be multiple choice

A while back I posed 13 Subversive Questions for the Classroom. Here’s the first five:

  1. If a question has a correct answer, is it worth asking?
  2. If something is “Googleable” why would we spend precious class time teaching it?
  3. When we ask students to summarize, do we actually want to know what’s important to them?
  4. What do you suppose students think they are supposed to be doing when we ask them to analyze?
  5. Do you ever ask your students questions you don’t know the answer to? Why not?

Here’s a TEDxCreativeCoast video – The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice – that answers those questions and showcases the power of a PBL / design-based approach to learning. Turn curricula into design challenges, classrooms into workshops and teach students to think like designers.

While you watch it, try to think of a meaningful career that looks like filling out a worksheet.

Four Keys to Teaching Students How to Analyze

This week I’m presenting at the national AMLE conference (middle level education) in Portland Ore. Quite nice since I live here!

My session
Thursday Nov 8 at 8AM
#1111 – Teaching Students to Analyze? Motivate with Skills, Choice and Reflection.
Here’s a preview

True analysis is messy work, but that’s where the learning takes place.

My talk has two themes – first, it’s a reflection on how analysis is taught in the classroom. Too often teachers give students a Venn Diagram and ask them to compare. What looks like analysis on the surface is often no more than re-filling information from the source material into the Venn. Graphic organizer are great to help students understand a variety of analytic models, but they often constrain students into someone else’s analytic framework. 

Summarizing and comparisons are powerful ways to build content knowledge and critical thinking. But if students are going to master CCSS skills they need to design the model, find a way to express it to others, and have the opportunity self reflect on their product and feedback from peers. Get them started with graphic organizers, then show some courage and be less helpful. True analysis is messy work, but that’s where the learning takes place.

My session will utilize audience responders to first evaluate sample lessons in summarizing and comparing, then collectively develop critical benchmarks. Teachers will next be given frameworks for designing lessons which enable students to think like designers, to apply their learning strategies, share their conclusions and set the stage for self-reflection.

FlipNLearn: a foldable that students design, print and share.

Next, I will demonstrate how to meet these four keys to teaching analysis with FlipNLearn, a foldable that students design, print and share. It’s an innovative learning tool that students design on a computer, then print on special pre-formatted paper. The result – a clever foldable that flips through four faces of student selected text and images. FlipNLearn is a great way to give students a manageable design challenge that promotes teamwork, self-assessment and reflection. In 30 minutes, or less, they can produce tangible product that blends the best of PBL and CCSS skills in communication. If you can’t make my session, look for me at the IMCOM vendor booth #819 for free tips on Portland’s best pubs and grub.

Common Core Skills: Deeper Reading and Critical Thinking


First automobile on the Index-Galena road -1911

Across the county teachers are looking for lessons and resources to implement new Common Core standards. While some see Common Core skills as something new, most of these skills are exemplified in the well established, document-based approach to instruction.

  • Close reading of non-fiction
  • Interpreting primary source documents
  • Comparing multiple texts
  • Finding evidence and using it to support arguments
  • Recognizing historical context and point of view
  • Utilizing higher-level thinking to analyze and form judgements

As a long-time advocate of DBQ’s, I’ve re-posted sample lessons that demonstrate how to build student skills in literacy and critical thinking, while supporting mastery of the Common Core.

Lessons that demonstrate how to think and behave like a historian

Elementary – Interpret Using Summaring Skills 
US Westward Expansion on the Frontier

In life, we purposefully craft summaries for a specific audience (directions for the out-of-towner, computer how-to for the technophobe). In school, the tacit audience for most summaries is the teacher. If students are going to learn to summarize they need to be given a chance to genuinely share what they think is important for an audience other than the teacher.

Here’s a three-step summarizing process I followed in a second grade classroom using a popular Currier and Ives print from the mid-19th century. We scaffold the lesson from “right-there” observations, to telling what they think is important, to framing a summary.

Middle School – Recognize Historic Point of View
European Views of the New World

This lesson improves content reading comprehension and critical thinking skills and examines European views of Native American and the New World in the Age of Exploration. While it is a rather one-sided account, the documents also reveal a great deal about the cultural “lenses” that the Europeans “looked though.”

I developed this lesson to assist high school history teachers working with struggling readers. I wanted to show them how they could scaffold learning so that all students could participate in doing the work of historians. I built the lesson around a theme which was central to their curriculum. It was designed as an essential question that would engage students in reflection about how they allowed prejudice to color their perceptions. I selected images which could be “decoded” by students with a minimum of background knowledge.

High School – Analyze and Make Judgements
The Impact of Industrialization

The Industrial Revolution transformed humanity’s age-old struggle with material scarcity by using capital, technology, resources, and management to expand the production of goods and services dramatically. But while new technologies improved the American standard of living, industrialization concentrated great wealth and power in the hands of a few captains of industry. As economic growth increasingly touched every aspect of American society, it created both new opportunities and new social problems.

Three DBQ’s are designed to improve content reading comprehension through the examination of a selection of primary and secondary documents, graphics, cartoons, tables, and graphs. Each is keyed to a historic theme and focused on an essential question of enduring relevance. They are designed to demonstrate how student engagement can be “powered” by an essential question.

Secondary - Interpreting Primary Source Documents and Comparing Multiple Texts
Why We Fight: WWII and the Art of Public Persuasion

Designed as multi-touch student text, it focuses on the American response to WWII – especially the very active role played by government in shaping American behavior and attitudes. “Why We Fight” gives students a chance to step back to the 1940s and experience the perspective of Americans responding to the Pearl Harbor attack and WWII. Americans were hungry for information, and Washington responded with a PR blitz to sell the war to the American public.

The iBook provides access to the digital content, so users can remix the historic documents into their own galleries and projects. Students can use an iPad-friendly historic document guide to analyze all the source material and share their observations with peers and teachers. “Why We Fight” is filled with “stop and think” prompts keyed to Common Core State Standards and includes a student guide to learning from historic documents and links to a teacher’s guide to related activities and free iPad apps.

Image Credit: First automobile on the Index-Galena road, 1911 (Washington State)
University of Washington Libraries

Posts navigation

1 2 3 4 6 7 8