Humanities › History & Culture Women and World War II The Effect of World War II on Women's Lives Share Flipboard Email Print Bettmann/Getty Images History & Culture Women's History Women & War History Of Feminism Important Figures Key Events Women's Suffrage Laws & Womens Rights Feminism & Pop Culture Feminist Texts American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century View More By Jone Johnson Lewis Women's History Writer B.A., Mundelein College M.Div., Meadville/Lombard Theological School Jone Johnson Lewis is a women's history writer who has been involved with the women's movement since the late 1960s. She is a former faculty member of the Humanist Institute. our editorial process Jone Johnson Lewis Updated July 03, 2019 Women's lives changed in many ways during World War II. As with most wars, many women found their roles and opportunities—and responsibilities—expanded. As Doris Weatherford wrote, “War holds many ironies, and among them is its liberating effect on women.” But the war also results in the special degradation of women, as victims of sexual violence. Around the World While many of the resources on this topic address American women specifically, Americans were by no means unique in being affected by and playing critical roles in the war. Women in other Allied and Axis countries were also affected. Some ways in which women were affected were specific and unusual: the "comfort women" of China and Korea and the extermination and suffering of Jewish women in the Holocaust, for example. Women were among those held in internment camps by the United States for being of Japanese descent. Women and the Holocaust“Comfort Women: of China and KoreaMargaret Bourke-White Photographs including of concentration and work campsJapanese Internment in the U.S. In other ways, there were similar or parallel global experiences: the advent of British, Soviet, and American women pilots or the worldwide home-makers' burden of coping with wartime rationing and shortages, for example. American Women at Home and Work Husbands went to war or went to work in factories in other parts of the country, and the wives had to pick up their husbands' responsibilities. With fewer men in the workforce, women filled more traditionally male jobs. World War II: Women at HomeWorld War II: Women at Work (Images: Rosie the Riveter and Her Sisters)World War II: Women and Government Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady, served during the war as the “eyes and ears” for her husband, whose ability to travel widely was impacted by his disability after he’d contracted polio in 1921. American Women and the Military In the military, women were excluded from combat duty, so women were called on to fill some military jobs that men had performed, to free men for combat duty. Some of those jobs took women near or into combat zones, and sometimes combat came to civilian areas, so some women died. Special divisions for women were created in most of the military branches. World War II: Women and the MilitaryWASP: Women Pilots of World War II More Roles Some women, American and others, are known for their roles resisting the war. Some of these women were pacifists, some opposed their country’s side, and some cooperated with invaders. World War II: Women Spies, Traitors, Pacifists, and War OpponentsTokyo Rose: imprisoned for treason, eventually cleared, pardoned in 1977Josephine Baker Celebrities were used on all sides as propaganda figures. A few used their celebrity status to work to raise funds or even to work in the underground. World War II: Women Celebrities and the WarLeni RiefenstahlLillian HellmanFuture celebrity Marilyn Monroe was photographed in a World War II factory job For further exploration, see the excellent read on the topic: Doris Weatherford’s American Women and World War II.