Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War II
Because of the “double shift”, companies had a harder time retaining women in the workforce than recruiting them. Even though they took war jobs, women were still in charge of managing the household. After a full day of work, many women had to stand in long lines at stores, if they were even open, and usually by the time they reached the market the limited supplies were gone. Some grocers were aware of this problem and would save some items for women who worked (Gluck 13). Transportation was especially difficult. Since gas was rationed along with food, many workers car-pooled. Public transportation was inconvenient because it was hard to get to and took a long time. Transportation alone could add one or two hours each way to a worker’s commute. Another problem was the long hours that women had to work: 6 days a week, 8 hours a day. Many women left their jobs because of fatigue. Married women did not have time for entertainment, but single women did.
The biggest problem women faced was childcare. Communities and industries were slow to realize the importance of women workers, so they did not give much assistance to working mothers (Gregory 52). If the husband was around, women tried to work when their husbands were home to care for the children. Single mothers relied on their mothers, older children, other relatives, and neighbors for help (Gluck 14). The government and most employers thought that women should use federal childcare, but they ignored the fact that women were wary about putting their children in strange environments and were concerned about the qualifications of the childcare personnel (Yellin 60). Yet the beginnings of the acceptance of child care as a normal part of our culture began at this time.
The second biggest problem for women was housing. Some landlords were reluctant to rent to women because they would want washing, ironing, and cooking privileges that men did not. In addition, women were more critical of their living environments and usually could not pay as much as men since they did not make as much. In some areas, groups like the YWCA helped women find housing (Gregory 60-61).
When home responsibilities became too much for women, they would simply readjust their work schedules or take days off, otherwise they would give up sleep and recreation. The government was aware of women’s difficulties and encouraged businesses to develop programs to help women workers, including staying open later and saving items for them. It did not, however, suggest that men help out with the female labor in the home (Hartmann 58).