This month marked the 69th anniversary of the Japanese surrender that formally ended World War II. Those six years of fighting saw approximately 16 million American men leave their jobs and homes for war.
American women, then, were left to clean and tend to their households. And ration supplies. And raise money for the war effort. And make uniforms. And build tanks. And fix engines. And run the railways. And take over office jobs from male workers. And fly planes from base to base while sometimes acting as target practice. And pretty much just generally keeping sh*t together while every able-bodied Tom, Dick and Harry was off fighting the good fight abroad. Some ladies even joined them, serving as nurses or enlisting in reserve corps, sometimes giving their lives.
Did we mention how badass women were during WWII? Just look at this lady putting in work on a "Vengeance" dive bomber in Tennessee.
Over the course of the war, nearly 350,000 women volunteered for female branches of uniformed services, about 6 million more worked in factories, and 3 million joined the Red Cross. (They leaned way in.)
At the end of the war, federal policies encouraged the replacement of female workerswith men returning stateside. The factory and manufacturing jobs given to women to sustain the war were handed over to the men returning from it.
While Rosie the Riveter was the iconic symbol of women's work during the Second World War, there's more to the story than bandana-clad white women. Because it's never too late to honor a job well done, we've compiled 21 historical photos that capture the true breadth of what "We Can Do It" meant.
- Women on the home front made sure the war was well-funded...
- And the public didn't forget what it had to lose.
- They helped covert existing factories to manufacture necessities for the troops.
- They took their new roles seriously.
- There were "practically no jobs" that could not "be adapted for women workers," according to a 1943 issue of Newsweek.
- And often they'd work side-by-side with men.
- Women took care of the industrial equivalent of "women's work," like textiles.
- But they also handled "men's work." Like welding.
- And lumber work.
- They made sure transportation infrastructure was running smoothly...
- And their compatriots serving abroad had all the munitions they needed.
- (While keeping up-to-date with the news of the day.)
- They were up for any task...
- Because often, they had close family fighting overseas.
- In WWII, women defied stereotypes.
- Some of them left the home front to serve their country abroad...
- Joining auxiliary branches of the U.S. military...
- And black women fought for their country decades before much of their country fought hard for them.
- And yet, in uncertain times, they kept the home front prepared for any possibility...
- However they could.