And then the men came home

“American women achieved an unprecedented degree of independence during World War II. Many joined the military, and many others found themselves working outside the home for the first time in their lives. For those who entered the labor force and accepted employment in nontraditional jobs, the civilian day often began earlier and ended later. They were working a 48-hour week and still had a household to maintain. Everything from breakfast to bedtime seemed to have changed. Rationing and shortages affected the preparation of every meal, and the useful life of a piece of clothing was extended far beyond what it once had been. Working women adapted to the use of mass transportation, crowding into buses or streetcars rather than driving their own automobiles. Household items as mundane as metal bobby pins were prized because they were scarce. Working mothers had to provide for the well-being of their school-age children. Because day care was virtually nonexistent, grandparents or neighbors often helped. The phenomenon of the latchkey child began to grow. Because of the demands of wartime, juggling work schedules and maintaining the home, two or three generations of family members often lived under one roof, pooling their resources and sharing responsibilities. They planted victory gardens to supplement rationed staples, recycled whatever they could, and banked much of their income because there was little to buy. These nest eggs would play a part in the U.S. postwar economic boom as pent-up demand for consumer goods was satisfied. Although most husbands and boyfriends did return from overseas—some having been absent for more than three years—the definition of ‘normal’ home life had been forever changed, and aspects of the changed lives of American women in World War II endure today.” – The World War II Desk Reference, Douglas Brinkley and Michael E. Haskew, eds.

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