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The Changing Role of Women: The Second World War Essay

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1. a) The aim of this poster is to persuade women to work in factories. The poster shows the woman at the forefront as big, strong and powerful to encourage women to enter employment to help with the war effort. The viewers of the poster, see the woman from below, focusing on a type of ascendance and that women can be very influential in the war.

In the background there are factories producing typical symbols of war such as fighter planes and tanks, allowing the women to think that by working in factories they will play a crucial role in the war.

b) I think that it is deceiving to the extent that if the women decided to enter into employment in factories, they would not necessarily be producing fighter planes and tanks, instead they could be working in munitions factories. Although some women did work in vehicle manufacture. However the poster does not mention the difficulties that came along with working in factories so it is unable to give a realistic impression of factory work.

The poster only shows the positive side of working such as helping the men at war and not the negative side such as monotonous work and being poorly paid.

2. a) The woman is presented as a typical sex object fawned upon by men, as the traditional ‘blonde’, but the sort of person that would be ‘kept’ rather than earn her own living. I do not think that this is a stereotype of women’s role during the Second World War, as they were a vital part in supplying the men with munitions and keeping the home front stable economically. A large amount of women went to factories and earned their own living.

b) As historians have found that there is little criticism, it means that some people did not pick up on the undertone or they ignored it and focused on the main message of urging people to avoid gossip. It also may mean that women were willing to overlook the sexist comment considering the situation Britain was in.

3. a) I think that there are slight differences in the images shown, in Figure 17.3 the woman looks more professional than the hay-gatherer in Figure 17.4. Also the woman in 17.5 is seen as glamorous and beautiful. However overall they all show the same image that women should help where possible on the ‘home front’ in order to aid men to fight against the enemy and that women are limited to non-combatant work as it is man’s traditional role to defend the woman.

b) From the Figure 17.3 it may encourage women to volunteer as the woman depicted in the poster is seen as professional in her uniform and is part of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, which is an impressive title for a woman who had little previous work experience. Figure 17.4 shows a glamorous young woman carrying hay as she might the weekly wash-load, in an idyllic rural scene. It also links work in the fields to everyday tasks the woman faces so they may think that the work will not be too strenuous. There is a beautiful lady in Figure 17.5 which makes the Auxiliary Territory Service more appealing as it promotes the idea that women with style and femininity join the ATS.

4. a) For some women, having to stay at home to be housewives and to play the traditional role was seen as boring and monotonous in pre-war life. During wartime little had changed despite women volunteering for work. As shown by the account, the woman from the WAAF had little work to do which left her with a lot of spare time, of which she had nothing to do. Boredom seemed such a feature as some women did not have any hobbies or activities to fill the gaps in between their work.

b) I think the extract is useful when looking at wartime life for women who were in the WAAF, but the same points cannot be used when studying women who had volunteered for other jobs. It is only the views of one woman writing mainly of her own particular experience of life. It cannot account for the opinions of all women, some may have found their work interesting and worthwhile. Not all women share the same views and have to be seen as individuals.

5. Features in the illustration that reinforce traditional images of a woman’s role:

* The woman is wearing an apron showing that she is the cook, part of a housewife’s job.

* She has two children in order to look after, one being a baby.

* The dog represents the pet of the traditional family.

* A new washing machine is the mum’s dream come true which will help her with her daily chores.

* The woman from next door seems jealous of the new washing machine.

* The man seems to be the provider of the washing machine.

* At the top of the cover it states “I LEFT MY MAN ON HIS OWN. OH MY!”, reinforcing the idea that the woman is supposed to care for the man.

* A man is plugging in the washing machine, emphasizing the point that men should understand new technology, perhaps better than women .

6. The sources tell us that women had an important role to play in respect to working in factories and in the home front. They could not be ignored but instead had to be integrated into the war effort through freeing men from clerical, supportive jobs and enabling them to fight. Women were a part of Britain which could be used in factories and simple jobs such as collecting harvests as in the Land Army (Figure 17.4).

Despite these changes to the daily lives of women during the war, prejudice against women was still present, especially in the armed forces where they were limited to non-combatant work.

The Red Star Weekly cover printed on April 16th 1955 showed that even after the war, attitudes towards women had not changed significantly. They largely remained the same with women expected to be housewives and to return to normality, as with before the war took place.

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