OCR Civil Rights Women's Rights After WW2

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  • The Second World War - change or continuity for women?
    • By 1945,  there were 5 million more working women than in 1940 - many of whom were married women.
    • Unlike WW1, 350,000 women joined the Armed Forces.
    • The huge contribution of women to the war effort was portrayed by the media as a short-term extension of their domestic role.
    • By 1945 there was a clear attitude change to work - in 1919 the majority of married women were happy to return to their domestic roles, but after 1945 75% wanted to remain in paid employment
    • Federal grants for day care centres for working mothers in the armaments industry (under the Lanham Act) were gradually withdrawn between 1942-1946, until only 3 states continued to fund child care
    • After the war many women were laid off to make way for returning soldiers
      • A clear indication that the concept of 'separate spheres' had not been eradicated.
    • The media played an important role in reinforcing the long-held belief that a 'woman's place' was in the home
      • Magazine articles elevated the ideal American family and portrayed domesticity as the ultimate and most rewarding role for American women
      • Dr Benjamin Spock published a book emphasising the important role of mothers in the home
      • Any sign of instability in the family was blamed on the married women trying to fulfill the dual role of wife and mother with that of employee
        • The divorce rate rose to 18.2% in 1946 from 10.2 in 1940
    • For unmarried women, job opportunities in the service economy continued to expand
      • Many of these jobs were now open to African American and young immigrant women who were entering the US in increasing numbers after 1945


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