The myth of Rosie the Riveter--and how to make it closer to reality

A great many stereotypes about American women during World War II-especially their role in war industries--do not really correspond to reality:

"Only 8 percent of wives had husbands in the military; a majority of married men were civilians working at home. Most women remained housewives; of 33 million women at home in December 1941, seven out of eight were still there in 1944, at the peak of wartime employment. Nine out of ten young mothers did not work outside the home.

"Of working women, only 16 percent were in war industries, partly because men did not want their wives in the grimy, often dangerous war plants where, due to round-the-clock production, they were also open to sexual advances on the night shift. A 1943 Gallup poll showed that 70 percent of married men opposed war work for their wives and that 75 percent of spouses agreed. GI surveys showed that the soldiers' dream was not Rosie the Riveter but Mrs. Miniver (1942), Hollywood's model housewife (played by Greer Garson), who kept familiar and respectable family values alive during shifting times. Many middle-class women felt blue-collar work was demeaning. And some wives worried that if they became self-supporting, their husbands were more likely to be drafted.." https://books.google.com/books?id=KXz0BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA46

Question: How can we get a greater mobilization of women for war industries? There was serious talk of a labor draft, including women. Here was LIFE magazine of January 29, 1945:

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As it turned out, labor conscription, even for men, never was enacted (despite passing the House). With victory in sight in1945, it no longer seemed necessary; businessmen feared government interference; and organized labor was violently opposed to the idea, except for those unions dominated by the Communist Party (or Communist Political Association as it had renamed itself). The Communists of course thought it was just fine--ever since the "imperialst war" had been transfomed into a "people's war" on June 22, 1941, they had become "everything for victory" superpatriots and FDR loyalists. Besides, the Russians were doing it, so it had to be a good idea... But the Communists were isolated in the labor movement on this issue; when Harry Bridges came out in favor of labor conscription, Phil Murray forced Bridges to back down. https://books.google.com/books?id=iWMprgS8q0AC&pg=PA208

To have labor conscription, including that of women, pass, what would presumably be necessary is a considerably longer war--though I am not sure even that would have been enough to make it include women.
 
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Could a worse panic after Pearl Harbor get it proposed and passed early?
The attack doesn't have to be any different, just more panic from it.
 
My grandmother worked in an altimeter factory during WW2. At the time she was unmarried, her first husband literally died in a hotel fire. Lots of women in similar circumstances worked. What I think a lot of us don't recognize is that maintaining a household took a lot more labor in those days than it does now, even if there weren't any kids to mind yet (its hard to say whether children took more or less energy minding in the 40s vs now, families typically had more of them in those days).
 
Question: How can we get a greater mobilization of women for war industries? There was serious talk of a labor draft, including women.
To answer your question first: The situation for American armed forces would have to have been much worse. Fewer victories, more defeats, and the American perception that the Axis was likely to eventually win unless more drastic measures were taken. Heartland America would need to feel a real threat that their lives were going to change for the worse, permanently. In this situation, the military draft would be expanded to include more married and older men and a male labor draft may be instituted, to force the shirkers to do their duty. However, many more women, including housewives, would volunteer at least part time to contribute to the war effort.

Rosie the Riveter was not a myth. Many women who if not for the war would not have volunteered to serve in auxiliary forces or take on a "man's job" in war industries did so, and their service should not be denigrated now . Not all of the Rosies were riveters. Even tending individual family "victory gardens" and supporting scrap and war bond drives contributed to the war effort.

My grandmother ran a farm nearly by herself to free my grandfather to work longer hours as a welder at a naval shipyard. Her sister, married to a Marine fighting at Guadalcanal, went to work in a munitions plant and volunteered as an aircraft spotter in her spare time. Other female relatives became American "Land Girls" tending farms to free up/make up for military age men to serve in uniform. They all did their part.
 
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Rosie the Riveter was not a myth. Many women who if not for the war would not have volunteered to serve in auxiliary forces or take on a "man's job" in war industries did so, and their service should not be denigrated now . Not all of the Rosies were riveters. Even tending individual family "victory gardens" and supporting scrap and war bond drives contributed to the war effort.

I am not by any means denigrating the role played by women in the war effort. I am only pointing out that the way it is often portrayed--women working in heavy industry. building bombers, etc.-- was not as common as is often thought. Obviously, that doen't mean it never happened (16 percent of women who worked outside the home worked in war indusries. and that is a lot of women in absolute terms, even if a distinct minority of all American women) nor that women didn't help the war effort in many other ways as well.
 
Could a worse panic after Pearl Harbor get it proposed and passed early?
The attack doesn't have to be any different, just more panic from it.
Make FDR more risk-averse. Still optimistic, and that might be the challenge, just risk-averse.

Or, better yet . .

Since we are always and forever focusing on presidents, and I’m as guilty as anyone, how about a key Congressional committee chair being risk-averse?
 
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