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Results from the 2015 New Orleans Regional History Day Contest

History DayThis past Saturday, March 21, the Museum hosted the Greater New Orleans National History Day regional contest.  National History Day is a student research competition in which students, either as individuals or in groups, conduct research and construct a project on a historical topic of their choice.  Projects in this year’s contest focused on the theme of “Leadership & Legacy in History” with student-selected topics ranging from General George Patton to Beyonce!

At this year’s regional contest, over 230 middle and high school students with over 130 projects in 18 different categories competed throughout the day for a chance to advance their work to the Louisiana State History Day contest which will be held at the Museum on Saturday, April 11; the winners from that competition will then travel on to represent the state of Louisiana at the National Contest in Washington D.C..

For these students, the regional contest was the result of many months of researching, writing and perfecting their work. Judging panels evaluated student projects in five different formats—exhibit, research paper, performance, documentary and website – with students placing in the top four of each category advancing to the State Contest.

Congratulations to all the winners and to all the students who participated!

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

Teacher Resources for Holocaust Remembrance Day

 

Charlotte Weiss is a Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz. Her oral history can be found online at The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum at ww2online.org.

Charlotte Weiss is a Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz. Her oral history can be found online at The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum at ww2online.org.

70 years ago in April 1945, Allied troops across Europe continued to find and liberate the prisoners of Nazi concentration and death camps. The horrific extent of the Holocaust was revealed as people all over the world learned about camps like Ohrdruf, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau. To many soldiers, including General Eisenhower, the discovery of these camps reaffirmed the Allies’ moral justification for defeating the Nazis and other Axis countries. The National WWII Museum has powerful stories from Holocaust survivors and soldiers who liberated some of the camps in its collections, as well as photographs, and other classroom materials to help teachers present personal stories and explore larger ethical questions connected to the Holocaust.

Survivors and Eye-Witness Testimonies

The Digital Collections of The National WWII Museum currently contains two interviews from Holocaust survivors. Eva Aigner was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937 and fled to Hungary during the war. Her detailed account of life in Budapest and the liquidation of the ghetto there is a chilling story of escalating and deadly anti-Semitic policies in Hungary, and her family’s desire to survive at all costs. Charlotte Weiss‘s compelling story includes meeting the infamous Dr. Mengele in Auschwitz and being liberated by the American Army. Both women went on to dedicate their lives to speaking and educating others about the Holocaust and promoting tolerance.

There are also several oral histories with US soldiers who vividly recount liberating some of the concentrations camps. For German-American Karl Mann, Dauchau was an unforgettable “example of man’s inhumanity to man” and soldiers like Don Jackson described making the German townspeople come in to the camp to bury the numerous bodies they found. Photographs of camp conditions can also be found on ww2online.org.

Educational Programs and Resources

Teachers who have their students read The Diary of Anne Frank and other personal accounts might also be interested in our virtual field trip and special guest webinar about the Holocaust. “The Holocaust: One Teen’s Story of Persecution and Survival” virtual field trip is offered year-round and details the life of Anne Frank’s step-sister, Eva Schloss, who survived Auschwitz. A recording of this January’s student webinar with survivor and activist Luna Kaufman is also available for classroom viewing.

Other resources include the free downloadable lesson plan “When They Came for Me”  which uses Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous quote and sources about WWII resistance movements to explore questions about personal and collective responsibility about the Holocaust. A one-page fact sheet, WWII Timeline lesson, and a link to The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibit, Deadly Medicine, are also available to help teachers provide students with a basic overview of the Holocaust and Nazi racial policies, and an understanding of these within the larger context of the war.

Finally, think about registering for one of our professional development opportunities. Each Spring and Fall, the Museum hosts the Anti-Defamation League’s Echoes and Reflections Holocaust multimedia program. Be sure to check our teacher workshop page to learn more about this and other future workshops.

For additional ideas and resources for Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 16) and Month, please visit our Education Blog, follow us on Twitter @wwiieducation and sign up for our free monthly Calling All Teachers e-newsletter.

Post written by Megan Byrnes, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator.

Donor Spotlight: Superior Energy Services

_MG_7800The Voices of Courage oral history exhibit within US Freedom Pavilion: the Boeing Center allows visitors to hear the stories of life in World War II told by veterans themselves. The focus of these tales of courage are on the universal themes of Why We Fight, Experience of War and Military Life. These personal accounts from the Museum’s expansive collection are inspirational, emotional and sometimes even humorous. The words of these humble eyewitnesses to history make it clear to visitors that the war was fought by real men with faces and personalities — a lesson made even more poignant by the fact that so many did not get the chance to grow old and so many more have left us without sharing their experiences.

 

Donor Spotlight: Superior Energy Services

The Voices of Courage oral history exhibit in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center has been made possible by a generous gift from Superior Energy Services, Inc.

David Dunlap

David Dunlap

Superior Energy Services, Inc. has been a loyal supporter of the National WWII Museum since 2003, only three short years after the Museum’s opening. The company, with President & CEO David Dunlap now currently at the helm, was created in the mid 1980s by Terence Hall, a Tulane graduate and active Trustee of the Museum since 2010. The company provides specialized oil field services to companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico, US mainland, and further afield. It sells and rents oil and gas well drilling equipment and offers tools and services worldwide, including in Canada, the Middle East, Trinidad and Tobago, the UK, Venezuela, and West Africa. The company furnishes well access services to acquire data and perform remedial activities. It also makes, rents, and sells specialized drilling and spill containment gear.

Superior Energy Services first got involved with the Museum due to a common denominator: the two entities shared Board members. Founder and current Chairman of the Board of Superior, Terence Hall, and Board member Harold Bouillion both serve on the Board of Trustees for The National WWII Museum. Bouillion has supported Museum travel programs, the Museum’s annual Victory Ball, as well as the Road to Victory Capital Campaign. Hall has graciously named the American Counterattack exhibit within Road to Berlin, the first floor of Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters that opened in December.  In addition to the generosity of these two leaders at Superior, former President, Kenneth Blanchard,  has also sponsored the Siege of Bastogne exhibit within Road to Berlin in honor of his father, Don Blanchard.

Speaking on the strong involvement and relationship that Superior Energy Services has built over the years with the Museum, David Dunlap states that Superior likes to “support the things that our employees or directors are personally involved with,” which is evident based on the leadership’s philanthropy.

Dunlap and the company were particularly drawn to supporting the Museum’s Capital Expansion program. He noted that, with a company of over 14,000 employees, many of them “have some former military background,” making the Museum “a very good fit.” Dunlap went on to say that Superior Energy Services prides itself on being an “exceptionally patriotic company,” and that witnessing the expansion of a Museum of such high quality in a location where the company first grew its roots, made it a very attractive connection.

 

Mr. Dunlap, whose father-in-law fought in the Army Air Corps and was shot down over Switzerland during the war, first visited the Museum with his family in 2008. He stated that, after an amazing three or four hour visit through the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion and main galleries, they were heading out the front door when one of the docents grabbed his son by shoulders and asked “Hey, Buddy — got a light?” This sparked a twenty minute conversation  between the WWII vet and Dunlap’s family, as the volunteer walked them through his personal account of D-Day and the difficulty he had readjusting to normal life when he returned home.

After Dunlap and his family left the museum, he said that they walked about half a block, then he turned to his son and said, “You may live to be a really old man and never meet someone as interesting as that guy.” Dunlap states that preserving oral history accounts, such as this one, was a key factor in Superior Energy Service’s choice of sponsoring the Voices of Courage exhibit in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.

Dunlap went on to say that, if he could speak to other donors considering giving to the Museum, he would tell them that they would be “investing in an institution of exceptionally high quality.” He believes strongly that when considering a donation and factoring in how your gift will be put to use, that it is important to consider whether the organization will be a good steward.  He is gratified that Superior Energy Service’s involvement with the Museum has been, and continues to be, an incredible experience.  The Museum is gratified to have the commitment and generous support of this fine company and the outstanding individuals who comprise its leadership.

 

 

 

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Worker Wednesday: Women’s History Month

For the month of March, Women’s History Month, the blog series, Worker Wednesday, devoted to war production employee publications, in particular those of Higgins Industries, the Eureka and Higgins Worker, will focus on women workers. Higgins Industries employed over 20,000 in plants across the New Orleans area. Among these employees were thousands of women. Higgins notably hired women and minority workers for skilled and supervisory positions and built vocational programs to instruct these workers in skilled tasks.

In the March 30, 1945 issue of the Higgins Worker, winners of the “Miss Carbon” contest were featured. Higgins crowned a “Miss Carbon, Day” and “Miss Carbon, Night”, one from each shift. The winners of this personality contest were selected via monetary vote. Fellow workers contributed $1 per vote to the Red Cross, raising a total of $1045.15. Frances Moreau was “Miss Carbon, Night” and Hannah Slayton was “Miss Carbon, Day.” Their “King Carbon” was WWII veteran D. Dahmes.

Join us at the Museum on March 28th for a special Women’s History Month event “Beyond Rosie: Women’s Roles on the American Home Front.” See here for more details.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

 

Gift in Memory of Arnold Schaefer, 2012.359.003
Gift in Memory of Arnold Schaefer, 2012.359.003

 

Donor Spotlight: Boysie Bollinger Becomes Museum’s Largest Private Donor

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Joy and Boysie Bollinger with Museum President & CEO Nick Mueller in the newly named BB’s Stage Door Canteen with a rendering of the Canopy of Peace in the background (Image Courtesy of The National WWII Museum)

Twenty years after first becoming involved with The National D-Day Museum, Boysie Bollinger remains tireless in his support of the institution now known as The National WWII Museum. In his work on the Museum’s Board of Trustees, Bollinger has lobbied government officials, potential donors, friends, and anyone who will listen to support the Museum. Today, he leads by example with his own donation to the Museum of $20 million.

Ranking among the top donations in the country to a non-profit organization or museum, this is the largest private gift ever received by the Museum. But Bollinger, who cites humility as the quality he most admires in WWII veterans, is not looking to hold onto the top spot for long. “I would hope somebody loves it a little bit more than me—or a lot more than me—and wants to become the largest donor. I think it’s going to raise the bar. I don’t need to stay there. I’d very much appreciate it if somebody beats me.”

The gift will be used to add an iconic architectural piece to the Museum’s six-acre New Orleans campus: the Canopy of Peace. Bollinger calls the Canopy “the finishing touch” to the Museum’s expansion. The Canopy will symbolize the hope and promise unleashed by the end of WWII hostilities. Commanding attention on the New Orleans skyline, the 150-foot-tall structure will also unify the Museum’s diverse campus in the enduring spirit of the wartime slogan, “We’re all in this together!”

Expansion Rendering

A rendering of the completed $325 million campus expansion with the Canopy of Peace (Image Courtesy of The National WWII Museum)

 

A portion of the historic donation will also go to the Museum’s endowment, a step Bollinger noted as significant to the institution’s future. The endowment guarantees the Museum will always have a steady source of funds to support the growing campus. Bollinger, a key player in the Museum’s leadership through critical phases, has always understood the importance of expanding the institution’s campus and its reach, and his donation will guarantee the Museum can continue on this essential path.

Additionally, a reference to Bollinger’s name will go on the Museum’s existing Stage Door Canteen, a 1940s-style entertainment space that serves as a living exhibit for music of the war era. The space will now be called BB’s Stage Door Canteen. “BB is what my grandkids call me,” said Bollinger. Noting that he doesn’t want his name in lights, Bollinger adds, “Some people will never know that’s me, but those who are important to me will know. It’s very personal.”

Bollinger’s passion for the Museum is easily noted through his unwavering commitment to telling the story of the Greatest Generation. He first became hooked during a trip to Normandy while serving as Vice Chairman of the Board. “Being close to the story of World War II made me a lot more humble,” Bollinger says. “What these people did for us is mindboggling. I worked every day of my life with two uncles that fought in the Pacific, neither one had ever mentioned a word about it. It forced me to go sit with them and make them tell me their stories. I never would have had that experience without being involved here.”

Bollinger became aware of how the war affected the families left behind. He thought about his grandfather who had to become an inventor to make the most of wartime shortages. “All of these things contributed to a realization, an understanding of the circumstances that America was going through during the war. I never would have had that without being exposed to the Museum.”

Bollinger’s remarkable career in shipbuilding and his bold reputation as an entrepreneur often prompt comparisons to a famous WWII-era boat builder, Andrew Jackson Higgins. Higgins Industries in New Orleans took the lead in producing thousands of the flat-bottomed landing craft that made it possible for Allied forces to successfully invade enemy-held beaches in Europe, North Africa, and across the Pacific. It is because of Higgins that the Museum is located in New Orleans, and it is largely because of Bollinger that it became a reality. Now he will put his name on a defining piece of the campus.

When first approached about getting involved with the Museum, Bollinger was told “It won’t take you any time and it won’t cost you any money.” All these years later, Boysie knows better. He believes his work with the Museum will be central to his life’s legacy. As the Museum strives to collect the funds needed to complete its expansion, he hopes his gift will spark the momentum for others to donate. “I’ve got a lot of time invested in this Museum, going back 20 years, and it’s time we finish it,” said Bollinger. “And I hope this is the gift that helps make that happen.”

IN THE NEWS: Read more about this remarkable gift in news outlets across the country.

The New York Times: $20 Million Gift to Expand National WWII Museum

The New Orleans Advocate: New Orleans’ National World War II Museum receives largest gift in its history from shipbuilding magnate Boysie Bollinger

WGNO-TV: Bollinger donates millions to the National World War II Museum

WVUE-TV: National WWII Museum receives $20 million individual donation

WWL-TV: Bollinger makes $20 million gift to World War II Museum

 

Home Front Friday: Spring has Sprung!

Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

It’s the first day of spring! Like the cockroaches comfortably nestled in your walls, it’s time to reemerge from the house and bask in the glorious sunshine! And what better way to soak up that vitamin D than to do a bit of gardening?

During World War II, gardening was not just a great way to catch some rays – it became a necessary food source for much of the country. As the public food supply dwindled, rationing became necessary. To combat hunger, Victory Gardens were planted at public parks and private residences.

archival victory garden

These provided over a third of the vegetables consumed in the United States! By 1943, 18 million victory gardens were flourishing – 12 million in cities and 6 million on farms. Wherever there was space (roofs, window boxes, backyards), a garden became a great way to save money and put food on the table.

Here at the World War II Museum, we have our very own Victory Garden, and some tips for how you can start one this spring with our Victory Garden Project. There’s a lot of information on starting a garden with a class of students, or on your own, including advice from gardeners, tasty recipes, and more!

Not sure you have what it takes to start a garden? Don’t worry! Try supporting some local farms in your area for fresh, organic produce. Or, start small and simple with a few herbs in these DIY tin can planters.

You’ll Need:

Tin Can(s)
Spray Paint
String/Rope
Hammer
Nail
Drill & Bit (Or not, if you don’t have one handy!)

Instructions:

1. Spray paint your leftover tin can (mine was from tomato sauce!) Let dry.

paint the can

2. Using hammer and a nail, poke holes in the bottom of the can for draining purposes.

holes drilled

3. IF you have a drill, drill two holes in the side of the can near the top to put your string or rope through and tie. If not, do what I did using simple cooking string – tie a loop around it.

4. Plant your herb(s), one per can.

5. Hang from a secure place!

finished planter

Whatever you do, be it starting your own garden, crafting some simple tin planters, or supporting local farms, get out of the house and enjoy spring before summer comes a-blazin’ and glues you to the air conditioning!

Posted by Laurel Taylor, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at the World War II Museum

Donor Spotlight: The Joe W. and Dorthy Dorsett Brown Foundation

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The Saluting the Services: Service Branch Cases in US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center pay tribute to the six service branches for the US Armed Forces, and the 16 million men and women who served during World War II. The six cases–highlighting the US Navy, US Army, US Marine Corps, US Army Airforce, US Coast Guard, and US Merchant Marines–display WWII-era uniforms from each branch and the stories of the individuals who wore them.

The Command Center, located in the center of the gallery, is an interactive exhibit highlighting how the many branches of the US Armed Forces worked together to secure victory. Visitors can use touchscreen technology to explore major battles and campaigns, and to view maps, archival images and associated weaponry.

Donor Spotlight: The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation

The Saluting the Services: Service Branch Cases exhibit has been made possible through a generous gift from The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation. The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation was established in 1958 with a mission of alleviating human suffering. This notable Foundation’s efforts primarily target south Louisiana, including the New Orleans area, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

D. Paul Spencers2

D. Paul Spencer, President of the Board of Trustees at The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation

Joe W. Brown and Dorothy Dorsett Brown moved to New Orleans in the mid-1920s, and their successes in real estate and the oil industry allowed them to pursue philanthropic endeavors. Mrs. Brown led the Foundation until she passed away in 1989, and the Foundation is now led by the Board President, D. Paul Spencer, along with the Board of Trustees. After Spencer completed college and his Army service, a mutual friend introduced him to the Browns and he remained their dear friend and employee for decades afterwards, up until their deaths.

Spencer is a WWII veteran of the European Theater, where he served as a platoon commander in the 90th Infantry Division of the US Army. His platoon was part of a battle in Hof during the latter part of the war, where he recalls “all kinds of hell broke loose.” He remembers a German truck crashing into the side of the road and roughly a dozen German soldiers came toward him. Spencer realized after the crash that his carbine was jammed, and the German soldiers begged him not to shoot. “Thank goodness they were not firing at me. My guys were just behind me a little bit and I was all alone. I put my hand over the cover that was exposed so they wouldn’t see that I couldn’t fire at them.”

Paul Spencer and the men of the 90th Infantry Division engaged in several battles as they made their way through Germany near the end of the war. Spencer and his fellow soldiers liberated the Merkers Salt Mine, where Nazis were hiding gold hoard, silver, and stolen art.

The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation’s loyal support of The National WWII Museum predates the Museum’s opening in 2000. The Foundation has provided significant funding for the Museum’s capital expansion since its earliest phases and the expansion has made it possible for the Museum to fulfill its mission of telling the epic story of WWII for all future generations.

In addition to generously naming Saluting the Services: Service Branch Cases, the Foundation has also sponsored The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation Special Exhibits Gallery, Into the German Homeland gallery within Road to Berlin, and a gallery in the upcoming Liberation Pavilion.

The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation is truly one of the cornerstones of The National WWII Museum’s support, and we could not be more grateful as we continue on our Road to Victory.

 

Worker Wednesday: Women’s History Month

For the month of March, Women’s History Month, the blog series, Worker Wednesday, devoted to war production employee and their publications, in particular those of Higgins Industries, the Eureka and Higgins Worker, will focus on women workers.

This week’s Worker Wednesday deviates from Higgins Industries to spotlight a worker from Delta Shipyards, another New Orleans production facility which employed thousands of women workers.

Rose Rita Samona completed 204 hours of training at the National Defense School on Frenchmen St. in New Orleans. She was trained in straight-line free hand burning, free hand circles, angles and machine burning. Samona, 22, was welcomed into the International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, Iron Ship Builders and Helpers of America. From May 1943 to January 1946 she worked as a burner for Delta Shipyards, cutting and burning holes in sheets of steel for the production of Liberty ships at the rate of $1.20 per day. Burners often qualified for extra money because of the dangers involved in the job. And indeed in November 1945 Samona had a minor injury when steel fell while she was working, burning her leg. She received the “E-award” and Ships for Victory medal for excellence in war production, given for outstanding job performance.

Rose’s goggles are featured in our current special exhibit, Manufacturing Victory: The Arsenal of Democracy.

Join us at the Museum on March 28th for a special Women’s History Month event “Beyond Rosie: Women’s Roles on the American Home Front.” See here for more details.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

SciTech Tuesday-The Jet Stream can bring more than cold air

This past winter (which will officially end on Friday 3/20) has shown how powerful the Jet Stream can be.

The Jet Stream (by which we usually mean the North Polar Jet Stream) is a relatively narrow, high velocity band of wind. Over time it tends to meander. The air north of it is cold, since it originates in the the Arctic. When in winter we have a big dip in the Jet Stream it can bring very cold air south with the dip. When the Jet Stream makes just the right (or wrong, as your perspective may determine) configuration, it can bring very cold air into contact with very moist air. This leads to heavy snowfall in a region. Since the Jet Stream moves and wobbles a bit more slowly than common storms and weather fronts, it can lead to longer patterns of weather—like the heavy winter snow totals that Boston received this winter.

Since the Jet Stream is pretty predictable throughout a season, it could in theory be used to carry floating objects with no propulsion of their own. It is at its peak from November through March.

Seventy years ago, in the winter of 1944-45, the Japanese military used the Jet Stream to do just that. They had been doing research on the Jet Stream, found that at about 9 km of altitude the wind could carry a large balloon across the Pacific (about 8,000 km) in three days.  That winter they engaged a plan to deliver explosives to North America.

They called these Fu-Go, or ‘windship weapons.’ They were 10 meter hydrogen-filled balloons carrying either a 15 kg antipersonnel bomb or a set of incendiary bombs. They had a relatively sophisticated system for maintaining their altitude.

In sunshine, the helium in the balloon would warm and expand and rise higher. At night the helium would cool and the balloon would descend. The Japanese military engineers designed a control system that used an altimeter that caused the balloon to drop some of its ballast when it descended below 9 km. When the balloon rose too high, to about 12 km, it was at risk of bursting. At this altitude the control system opened a valve to vent some of the hydrogen in the balloon.

The system carried enough ballast and hydrogen to take it through 3 days and nights of travel in the Jet Stream. At that time the bombs were released and the balloon destroyed.

These balloons could carry about 450 kg of payload. The first balloons were rubberized silk, but later versions were made of mulberry paper, that leaked less hydrogen. (Silkworms eat mulberry leaves and make cocoons that are turned into silk—so in either case the balloons depended on mulberry).

The bombs were largely ineffective. During the war, US Military Intelligence estimated that about 350 of these balloons reached the US. Arrivals of balloons were kept very quiet in the press so that the Japanese would have no information about their arrival or effectiveness. The campaign of Fu-Go ended in March of 1945.

In May of 1945 a Sunday School teacher and her 5 students were on an outing in rural Oregon investigated an unusual object they found in the woods. The bomb detonated, killing them all.

Earlier in the war, from 1942 to 1944, Great Britain released 99,000 balloons meant to cause damage to the Axis. About 40% of these carried no bomb, but a very long strand of piano wire. Equipped with automatic timers and fuses, these would inflate and then descend over Germany, unspooling their wire. This was meant to short electrical lines. Shortly after their release (1,000 at a time) their were forest fires near Berlin and in Eastern Germany. One balloon knocked out power in Leipzig.

Barrage balloons were used extensively by all sides in both WWI and WWII. They were blimp-shaped balloons meant to interfere with aircraft. They had long tethers and sometimes nets spanned between them. There were only useful against low-flying craft, but there were 1,400 hundred defending England in 1940, and 3,000 in 1944. Some of them were designed to release explosive charges when the cable was contacted. These explosive-rigged barrage balloons were believed to have stopped at least 200 V1 rockets heading towards the cities of England.

During our busy Spring season, SciTech Tuesday posts will come every other week. 

Posted by Rob Wallace, STEM Education Coordinator at The National WWII Museum

Home Front Friday: Real Rosie – Women in the Work Force

Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit of the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

Ahhh, Rosie… the image of female economic independence, a symbol of power and strength, and an icon for feminism. During World War II, propaganda posters of this sort were used to encourage women to enter the industrial workforce. And women did. Between 1941 and 1945, the female percentage of the work force jumped ten percent, making up about 37 percent. With men overseas, women filled vacant positions outside the home, proving they could do the same jobs, often better. In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s take a look at some of the challenges US women overcame striving for equality in the workplace.

we can do it

Besides historically unequal pay, women were met with many more obstacles. During the Depression, women were criticized for entering the workforce. They were targeted for stealing men’s jobs, though they entered female industries, and criticized for abandoning their children, though they often worked out of dire necessity. Married women were targeted by the government. In 1932, the Federal Economy Act passed, which quite blatantly stated that a married woman could not work in civil service if her husband did as well. Additionally, women were often fired for being married and having children. Up until the late 1930s, labor unions were exclusively male, so women’s rights were left unprotected and exploitable.

FDR’s New Deal helped women in a number of ways. By 1940, 800,000 women workers were unionized, triple the number in 1930. The New Deal legitimized women’s collective bargaining, encouraged women in industry to unionize, and encouraged male unions to include women. Despite this, many of the programs were initially fraught with sexism and racism. For instance, the National Recovery Administration stated that women must be paid less than men.

Until World War II, the plight of the female worker was largely ignored. But with the influx of female workers during wartime, unions began paying attention to women’s labor issues. Women organized themselves, lobbying for national health insurance, free daycare for working mothers, and maternity leave. Many victories were made for women’s rights during World War II. The women workers of the Great Depression and World War II were a part of a long line of women determined to see fair and equal conditions for women in the work force. We honor them by continuing their efforts today, and remembering them this March.

Additionally, Friday, March 13th is Digital Learning Day, which celebrates technology in education and high-quality learning opportunities. To recognize both Digital Learning Day and Women’s History Month, check out some of the Museum’s online assets and digital programming

  • Teachers: request a Virtual Field Trip about American women uniting for a cause and aiding their country at home and abroad during WWII
  • Check out one of the Museum’s WWII High School Yearbooks from all-girls, St. Ursula Academy in Toledo, Ohio.

Listen to oral histories, view historic short films, and browse photos of female industrial workers in the online component of our special exhibit Manufacturing Victory: The Arsenal of Democracy.

Posted by Laurel Taylor, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at the World War II Museum