partners exhibit heading

american magazine cover 1945
Changing Images of Women's Role



Changing Images of Women's Role:

Before World War II, the prevailing view of a woman's role was that of wife and mother.  Many occupations were reserved for men and some states barred married women from holding jobs.  The need to mobilize the entire population behind the war effort was so compelling that political and social leaders agreed that both women and men would have to change their perceptions of gender roles—at least as long as there was a national emergency.  Women were told they must contribute in a variety of ways.

The government turned immediately to readily identifiable women leaders at the Nation's academic institutions. Higher education for women was socially acceptable, but the opportunity to use education in the workplace was limited. Women educators had networks of academically qualified women whom they recruited for government service in military and civilian capacities.

The armed forces launched crash recruiting drives including rallies, national advertising campaigns, community outreach programs, and appeals to college students.

WAAC recruiters 3-10678-c
African American WAAC officers recruit
for the racially segregated armed forces.


War Department publicists produced posters and subway cards that portrayed women in uniform as glamorous.

WAVES Recruiting Poster, 1943
WAVES recruiting poster,
by John Falter, USNR, 1943.

Nurses are Needed Now! Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, 1944
Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, by Stu L. Savage,
created for the US Army
Recruiting Bureau, 1944.

Coast Guard SPARs recruiting pamphlet
Coast Guard SPARs recruiting pamphlet
Click on the image to see a larger version


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Photo Credits: #1 & 2: Library of Congress, #3:National Archives, #4 Women's Memorial Foundation


(c) Copyright National Women's History Museum 2007