World War II Homefront: Women at Home

Women's Lives Changed by World War II

World War II poster urging men, women and children to contribute to the war effort.
World War II poster urging men, women and children to contribute to the war effort. Image courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Modifications © Jone Lewis 2001

In those countries fighting World War II, resources were diverted from domestic uses to military uses. The domestic workforce also fell, and even though women filled some of the openings left by those who went into the military or into war production jobs, domestic production fell as well.

As women were traditionally the managers of the home, the rationing and shortage of domestic resources fell more heavily on women to accommodate. Women's shopping and food preparation habits were affected by having to deal with ration stamps or other rationing methods, as well as the increased likelihood that she was working outside the home in addition to her homemaking responsibilities. Many worked in volunteer organizations connected with the war effort.

In the United States, women were urged by organized propaganda campaigns to practice frugality, to carry groceries instead of using the car to preserve tire rubber for the war effort, to grow more of their family's food (in "Victory Gardens" for example), to sew and repair clothing rather than buy new clothes, to raise money for and contribute to war bonds, and generally to contribute to the morale of the war effort through sacrifice.

In the US, the marriage rate increased greatly in 1942, and the rate of babies born to unmarried women increased by 42% from 1939 to 1945.

American propaganda posters from World War II: