Women at Work During World War II

Two women in work clothes laugh together in front of a locomotive
Two American women, employed as war workers by a big American railroad, enjoying a moment of relaxation after cleaning and preparing the locomotive in the background for the day's trip. c. 1940-1944.

US Office of War Information, courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-10515.

During World War II, millions of women went to work outside the home for the first time. Millions more continued to work--as they had been doing for years. They labored in factories, building ships, tanks, and bombs for the war effort. They toiled in schools, hospitals, and offices. And they aimed to achieve a tricky balance between jobs and personal lives.

Explore articles, lesson plans, oral history interviews, and more stories of women at work during World War II.

Women Workers During World War II

  • Newspaper clipping with photo of Asian American woman wearing glasses and smiling while looking down
    Alice Yick

    Alice Yick was the first Chinese American woman to work at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, and an advocate for military veterans.

  • An older African American woman in park ranger uniform sits on low bench.
    Betty Reid Soskin

    Betty Reid Soskin, now retired, was a Park ranger with the NPS at Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park.

  • A young woman sits in front of a desk with papers while speaking into a phone receiver
    Sallie K. Braun

    During WWII, “Sallie” was Army codename for SF because Sallie K. Braun virtually "ran the Army Port of San Francisco single-handed."

  • Two men and a woman stand on an airport tarmac in front of a large plane with text
    Eleanor Roosevelt and World War II

    Eleanor Roosevelt's extensive travels to conflict zones during WWII made her determined to find a way to lasting peace after the war ended.

  • A young woman in hat and coat leans against a young man in suit
    María Ylagan Orosa

    María Ylagan Orosa was a Filipina nutritionist, food chemist, and war heroine.

  • Women in masks work welding on the side of a ship
    Shipbuilding Women in Boston's Navy Yard

    More than 8000 women streamed into war jobs at Boston's Charlestown Navy Yard during World War II.

  • A woman in welding gear smiles at the camera while sitting on concrete floor
    Tending the Home Front in San Francisco

    In the Bay Area and throughout the nation, women worked at jobs such as welding and riveting while maintaining roles as mothers and wives.

  • A young woman sits in a low chair and reads a book to three young girls
    Childcare on the World War II Home Front

    During WWII, the United States subsidized childcare for some of the many women workers who powered the war effort.

  • A page of handwritten text
    Black Women War Workers in Boston

    Believing that “victory abroad [should] be accompanied by a war against racism at home,” many Black women fought racism in war industry.

A woman stands in front of a wall of gears and machinery
Hour History Lesson: Decryption Bombes

In Dayton, OH, members of the Navy WAVES worked building decryption bombes, machines for military intelligence, during WWII.

A man and woman in work clothes work at a table
Hour History Lesson: Aviation & Defense

This lesson plan spotlights the work of Ohio women in the aviation and defense industries during WWII.

Oral History Interviews

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    An elderly woman with light skin and white hair holds a poster with historical photos
    Real "Rosies" and Home Front Workers

    Explore this collection of stories of women workers during WWII from Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park.

    More Stories of Women at Work During WWII

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      Last updated: December 7, 2023