Introduction

The United States of America became involved in the Second World War after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii in 1941. This decision effectively changed the lives of every individual from that point forward. Whether it was abroad or on the home front, each American citizen was asked by their government to contribute to the war effort. Propaganda was put into effect by the American government shortly after the beginning of the war. It came in all different mediums and endorsed all sorts of causes which the administration believed would help them win the war. There were war posters to encourage eligible men to volunteer for the army and navy, short films set to play before movies in the cinema which urged the viewers to buy war bonds, and radio announcements that advised people to ration their food sources.

With the war dragging on for years and many of the young and able-bodied men being whisked off to fight for their country, a lot of needs were discovered in American society at home as well as abroad. Because of the absence of men, much of the weight from these demands fell to the shoulders of the women left at home. It has been said that “the ideal American woman in the prewar image was not at all prepared to participate in the war effort.” For the most part, this was true. Before the war, women were not expected to do much outside of the home, and those that did only did so out of desperation to feed their families. When the American government realized that they could use women as a vital resource, they went out full force with their propaganda campaigns and aimed plenty of it towards women. There were all sorts of areas that needed to be filled.

One of the biggest requirements to fill was that of the decrease in manpower in the factories. In order to win the war, the Americans realized that they would have to out-produce the Germany and Japan, who had been stockpiling weapons for years before the country entered the battle. The problem with this was that there were not enough men left to work in the regular factories, let alone an adequate amount to work in additional munitions factories. The government recognized that they would have to turn to some of the only able-bodied people left: women. With many of their husbands and fathers fighting in the war, young and middle-aged women alike had to look for a way to feed their families and the administration seized on this idea to push women into the factories, essentially creating a win-win situation. Many women were nervous to leave their homes where they knew the work demanded of them, so much of the propaganda put forth tried to convince women that their country needed them and that they were serving their patriotic duty by working in these factories. As well, one of the most famous images of the war, Rosie the Riveter, was created in order to persuade women to join the workforce.

This sense of patriotism was also seen in recruitment campaigns for the army and navy. While most of the propaganda that encouraged American citizens to sign up for the armed forces was directed at males, it began to shift its focus towards women as the war continued to drag on and less and less men were available to fight. The government shifted some of their propaganda to target women, especially the younger ones. This cause was especially seen in war posters where women were not very sexualized. Instead they were portrayed more as true patriots, often looking upwards to signify the brighter future they could create both for themselves and for their country by fighting in the war. Ultimately, this campaign did not work in the way that the government wanted. There were several negative rumours surrounding the army jobs that were assigned to women and so the level of female recruitment was not as high as was expected.

The American government also had a hard time in recruiting women to become nurses for the war. Many wanted to stay close to home and help out with the war effort by working in factories as it was easier and required no training. The propaganda urging women to become nurses really focused on the fact that it could be their career. It was also directed more towards younger ladies as older women were more likely to have children and families which meant they were hesitant to leave their homes. As well, military nurses were not as highly paid as civilian nurses. To counter this negative aspect of the job, much of the propaganda appealed to a woman’s sense of nationalism. They also declared that it was an efficient way to find a husband as they would be exposed to many different men.

There were also many propaganda campaigns that targeted ways that women could support the war by donating personal resources. One of the main ways was through war bonds. The government really pushed war bonds onto the general public of the United States and not just the women. War bonds were vital for keeping the American military operations afloat. Women were commonly used in propaganda campaigns for war bonds because it was now common for a woman to be the one who controlled the family finances. Most of this sort of propaganda was meant to implant guilt into the mind of its viewers in order to shame them into buying more of the bonds. Numerous examples involved a mother and her young children whose father was away at war. This implied that these children’s father could be return home alive if he had an adequate amount of supplies which were bought from the money generated by war bonds.

Finally, rationing was also a cause that the government advocated to the American public. Although not as strongly promoted as in other countries such as Britain, war rationing became important towards the end of the war. Much of the propaganda distributed was aimed at the women who controlled what was bought for their home. It was stated that the more rationing that occurred at home, the less that the soldiers would have to go without. Again, propagandists used the tool of guilt to push people into buying less needed goods. Since women were more commonly the breadwinners for their families now, an ample amount of the rationing campaign was directed at them.

Here we have included a gallery which contains all of our images in one place:

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