Women in World War II
Although Nell Dorr’s retreat to domestic simplicity was a hallmark value of traditional American ideals, the reality of most women’s lives during World War II was vastly different. Throughout the nation and the world, women took to the factories, front lines, and volunteer corps to contribute to the war effort.
American women volunteered in the armed forces, serving both at home and abroad—$350,000 in all. They joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs, later renamed the Women’s Army Corps), the Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES), the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS), the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS), the Army Nurses Corps, and the Navy Nurse Corp.
Their jobs were not merely clerical but also on the front lines as test pilots, truck drivers, lab technicians and more. The most effective wartime code breakers or cryptanalysts were women. In England, 8000 women served at Bletchely Park, the central site for the UK’s code breaking operations. They comprised three-quarters of the government work force at the site. Here in the United States, Elizebeth Smith Friedman worked behind the scenes to breaking Nazi code across the globe. She was and still is considered among the most skilled cryptanalysts the world has ever seen.
Even those women who remained at home, caring for their families the rigors of wartime life were demanding. Rationing and shortages meant that those left behind contributed to the war effort by planting victory gardens and making every dollar stretch.