Rosie to Lucy: Second Wave Feminism

Rosie to Lucy: Second Wave Feminism

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Rosie to Lucy: Second Wave Feminism

Section 1 – Background of Women’s Movement

American women entered the labor force in considerably large numbers during WWII, as widespread male recruitment into the Army left significant gaps in the industrial labor force. The female percentage of the American workforce jumped from about 26% to approximately 37%, and by 1945 at least one of every five married women was employed or worked away from the home (Rose, 2018). The transformation is evident in Rosie the Riveter: Real Women Workers in World War II, a fourteen-minute documentary by Sheridan Harvey (Library of Congress, 2009). The women’s studies specialist working for the Library of Congress looks into the emergence of the idea of Rosie the Riveter and explores the lives of women workers in WW2. The film shows how more than 300,000 joined the aircraft sector by 1943, with this industry witnessing the largest escalation in female employees (Library of Congress, 2009). Many women also joined the munitions sector, as illustrated by Harvey. According to Rose (2018) most women served in the service and clerical sectors where they had traditionally worked for years, but the wartime economy initiated job opportunities in wartime production plants that had for decades belonged to men. Many women gained skills on how to operate various machines, including a turret lathe that reproduces duplicate parts and was indispensable in the wartime workforce.

In the 1940s, more women joined the labor force, primarily due to America’s entry into World War II. A considerable portion of women were working for the initial time in their lives, and were satisfied with the payment they earned from offering their services. Nonetheless, when men returned home from the War, abruptly women were confined to the home setting again (Davidson & Lytle, 2009). With the emergence of modern appliances and new conveniences, marketers focused on selling products to women, and in acting this way, initiated an influential propaganda campaign. Moreover, the campaigns stressed on women’s beauty and strength, an approach that played critical roles in empowering many females and restoring hope in them (Davidson & Lytle, 2009). Overall, the women’s campaigns and movement were a success and a crucial turning point for many American women because of the commitment in most females and the support from different quarters.

However, the postwar period introduced significant transformations with more women shifting again to their home environment considering that many men had returned from the War. The book by Davidson and Lytle (2009) informs that the 1950s saw a new age for women in the U.S. As men returned home from WWII, they resumed works that women occupied during the time of War. Many women, according to Davidson and Lytle (2009) changed to a role as a homemaker, responsible for managing and taking care of their homes. Rose (2018) on the other hand, assert that employment rates among women continued to climb in the 1950s, but the gender was again largely restrained to what was deemed as women jobs such as serving as store clerks, perming domestic chores, nursing, and teaching. Thus, it is possible to argue to the progress women made in securing their place in the workforce was short-lived because at the end of the War, women working in positions that had been previously held by men were terminated to pave way for returning male workers. 

Section 2 – Struggle of Women in the 1960s

In the 1960s, intense cultural transformations were changing the roles of women in the American society. Larger number of women than witnessed before were venturing into the paid workforce, and this intensified dissatisfaction among women concerning widespread inequalities in remuneration and escalating sexual violation at the workstation. Rose (2018) also agrees that there was a growing trend for females to work outside the home, and show how the number of women employees increased from 29% of all female laborers in 1950 to about 34% in the early 1960s. The advancement was attributed to their growing significance in the labor force.

An escalating number of women were against the notion of the feminine mystique, a term developed to explain the notion that women got satisfaction from working as housewives, and also from their bearing of children and marriage. More women joined hands to contradict the view that truly feminine women should not have the urge to work, indulge in politics, or pursue education. Betty Friedan, the developer of the feminine mystique contend that her framework sought to show the dissatisfaction among women yet it was difficult to express the desired feelings (Friedan & Quindlen, 2001). The introduction of contraception by the federal government in 1960 boosted the attempts by many women to secure working positions, as well as freed a considerable portion of women from unplanned pregnancy and provided them with more freedom and alternatives that influenced their personal lives (Friedan & Quindlen, 2001). Slowly, American nationals came to terms with some key objectives of the 60s feminists, encompassing an end to domestic mistreatment, equal pay for equal tasks, increased posting of women to managerial positions, shared responsibilities in the home environment, and an end to sexual violation.   

Section 3 – Feminist Icons

Various renowned feminists have committed their efforts towards fighting for place of women in the society. Their actions have boosted educational opportunities for girls and women, and have also boosted their indulgence in civil practice, including the right to vote. In addition, the activities of feminists over the years have played key roles in enhancing protection against discrimination and gender imbalance at the workplace.  Feminism in some communities, has achieved tremendous performance in countering persuasive cultural norms regarding women.  Some of the widely praised feminist icons include Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton (Werft, 2017). Oprah Winfrey has established herself as a feminist because she has continued to support the education of girls and women across the country. Being a philanthropist, Winfrey offers significant assistance to learning institutions, particularly with the objective of empowering females. She is also in the forefront in providing funds to help battered and divorced women and to suppress the activities of child abusers. Michelle has also gained prominence over the years as a resilient feminist who is committed to heighten the place of women in the society. The former first lady, Werft (2017) argues, was regarded as the woman most largely linked with feminism in the modern world. Similar to Oprah who has invested immensely in women education, Michelle has committed much of her time, effort, and resource into empowering women. She symbolizes hope by reaffirming that a girl from a poor background can ascend to greater heights.

Section 4 – TV Shows that Influenced Men and Women’s Roles

Section 5 – Concluding Thoughts


Davidson, J., & Lytle, M. (2009). After the fact: The art of historical detection. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Friedan, B., & Quindlen, A. (2001). The feminine mystique. W. W. New York, NY: Norton & Company.

Library of Congress. (2009). Rosie the Riveter: Real women workers in World War II. Retrieved from

Rose, E. (2018). The rise and fall of female labor force participation during World War II in the United States. The Journal of Economic History, 78(3), 1-39.

Werft, M. (2017). Michelle Obama Is the ‘face of feminism’ says 47% of Americans. Retrieved from

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