Rosie to Lucy: Second Wave Feminism

Rosie to Lucy: Second Wave Feminism

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Rosie to Lucy: Second Wave Feminism

Films are a good way to relay critical information about a particular topic, which makes it necessary to pay considerable attention to the unfolding story. One such kind of a film is Rosie the Riveter: Real Women Workers in World War II, a documentary that reveals how the roles of women changed moving into WWI. More women joined the workforce, although the privilege did not last with men reoccupying their positions after returning from War. Consequently, the analysis focuses on the transformations that happened between the 1940s and 1960s while looking at how women strove to secure their position in society. However, the essay shows that whereas the second wave of women movement introduced much change, women still had to cope with some factors that put men ahead. The paper reaffirms the need to focus on feminist actions, as well as emphasizes the need learn from various films that illustrate the importance of feminist actions. Overall, the essay holds that women made significant strides in joining the workforce prior and after WWII but the effort would receive a major boost if the trend maintained a positive trajectory after men returned from War.

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. The initiation of the Let Girls Learn program in 2015 depicted the character of Michelle as a feminist who is committed to transform the lives of girls who require her help (Werft, 2017). She received the support of the government in launching her bid, which provided her with further strength to facilitate the initiative. The chief objective of the initiative was to support girls around the globe go to school and complete their studies. Hence, it is undisputable that Michelle is a feminist who has made tremendous strides in all that she does.

Hillary Clinton, the wife to the former president, Bill Clinton, has gained global recognition as a feminist primarily because of what she does to assist women. Her attempt to run for the presidency in 2008 and 2016 inspired many women who gained the confidence that they can also contest with men for what has been for many years associated with men (Werft, 2017). The move continues to restore hope to many American women who believe that they will one day ascend to the highest position. In addition, Hillary has attended numerous conventions where she leads discussions on how to empower girls and women. She has in numerous instances took to social media to lament the mistreatment of women, particularly in culture and politics, an approach that has immensely improved the status of female members of the society. The actions of Hillary resembles what was witnessed during the second-wave feminism period in the 1960s when many individuals and groups focused in increasingly sameness for women by dwelling on feminist gains made in the past (Gordon, 2013). Advocators during the time paid considerable attention to increasing women’s indulgence in various areas and activities, encompassing but not limited to sports, literature, cultural activities, education, and politics (Gordon, 2013). Thus, it is apparent that Clinton is a feminist who has performed remarkably well.

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

Various TV shows impacted men and women’s roles throughout the 1950s and 60s, thus reiterating the roles such productions played during the time. Watching the films reveals that so many things have changed, and further reaffirms how the society has changed its views regarding what men and women ought to do. The film is about the contradicting views men and women had in the 1950s regarding the need of women to work in various sectors. Ricky Ricardo thinks that the primary role of his wife is to stay at home and give birth. In season 2, Episode 16, Lucy gives birth to a baby boy, and keeps reminding those who visit at the house that being the father he has an obligation to determine how things happen at the workplace (Reyna, n.a.). However, the situation does not remain the same throughout because Lucy and her friend Ethel get an opportunity to serve at a local factor company where the roles women played in the labor force during the time becomes apparent. The two women receive commands from who appears to be their senior, an indication that further illustrates how women got the chance to serve in leadership positions, although in areas that could only be manned by women (VCServiceExcellence, n.a.). At the same time, Ricky and Fred takes up the house chores, an incident that shows how societal thoughts regarding who should perform what duties changed considerably as opposed to before men went for war (Calvin Fx, n.a.). The evident scenario in the film is that in the 1950s, whereas many women had the desire to perform tasks that could earn them money rather than remaining at home, they faced considerable opposition from men who thought that their place is in the home setting where they should serve as house managers and caregivers.

However, later films emphasize how the roles of women has changed over the decades. An example of a modern TV show that illustrates how the position women has changed significantly is A Black Lady Sketch that was produced in 2019 and has three seasons. The show created by Robin Thede shows how most of the leading characters such as Shayla and Asia work in well-paying organizations (Thede, 2019). They are independent and make most of their decisions independently. The unfolding events in A Black Lady, particularly shows how African American women have continued to become more vocal, particularly with regard to securing working positions. Thus, the production shows a great concern of how women joined the job market now and in the past. However, some aspects in A Black Lady Sketch reveals that men still have significant influence over women at home and the workstation. For example, a male host, Haddassah Olayinka, hosts women in his show to find out the factors that still impede them from securing higher positions and to explain some of the issues that they still face in the society (Thede, 2019). The illustration affirms that whereas women have made significant strides in championing for their position, more need to happen to achieve a society where men and women have equal chances. Nonetheless, based on the happenings in A Black Lady Sketch, it is apparent that women have made tremendous steps to be where they are today.

Section 5 – Concluding Thoughts

Based on the analysis it is apparent that the second wave of women’s movement was partly successful and unsuccessful at the same time. The move was successful because more girls and women got the opportunity to further their learning, an experience that exposed them to valuable concepts and knowledge. The opportunity to progress to higher educational levels offered the chance to secure better jobs with some ascending to the leadership position (Mann & Huffman, 2005). The career and educational advancement came with independence among women and also fostered considerable change of roles in the family, with more women taking responsibilities that were previously set aside for men such as providing for the family. Men also became more cooperative in performing some of the house chores such as cleaning, something that was not rampant prior to the second wave. However, all did not work well because women still had to live with some unfortunate circumstances. For instance, more men still dominated higher positions in the workplace, something that triggered pay inequality (Mann & Huffman, 2005). Some women, especially who were not bold enough to look for jobs were still confined to the home setting where they performed house chores while their husbands left for work. Overall, it can be argued that whereas the second wave was crucial in improving women’s position and influence, all did not happen as expected because men still dominated crucial aspects, thus forcing women to still serve under their male counterparts.

References and Bibliography

Calvin Fx. (n.a.). I love Lucy: Job switching. Retrieved from

The episode shows how Lucy’s husband takes over the duties at home after his wide secures a job at a chocolate factor. The happenings reflect a change in social perception regarding playing different roles.

Davidson, J., & Lytle, M. (2009). From Rosie to Lucy. In Davidson, J., & Lytle, M. After the fact: The art of historical detection. pp. 339-365. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Chapter 14 narrates how women roles transformed significantly in the period lasting from the 1940s to the 1980s. It emerges from the text that the journey to gender equality has been marked by significant constraints. Explaining how women have strived to secure their position in the society and the workplace qualifies the source as a suitable one for this task.

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

The authors pay considerable attention to the effects of the second wave in bolstering the feminist movement. They assert that the movement awakened both men and women and improved social relations. Their focus on feminist movements makes the source relevant for this assignment.

Gordon, L. (2013). Socialist feminism: The legacy of the “second wave”. Retrieved from

The source pays considerable attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the second wave as witnessed throughout the 1960s to the 1980s. The source shows that the period offered tremendous opportunity for women to strengthen their place in the society. However, it show how more men still dominated well-paying positions and earned more than their women counterparts.

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

The documentary reveals how women played indispensable roles in the 1940s prior to WWII. It emerges that women filled positions that were left vacant after most of the men left for the War. Its focus on the attempt by women to secure their place in the job market makes the film relevant for this analysis.

Mann, S., & Huffman, D. (2005). The decentering of second wave feminism and the rise of the third wave. Science & Society, 69(1), 56-91.

The source is important for this assignment because it explains how the second and third waves impacted on women’s position and influence. It shows how whereas the second wave tried to uplift women’s position, it did not achieve as much as the third wave that paved wave for more women to pursue education and get working opportunities.

Reyna. (n.a.). I love Lucy – Lucy goes into labor.

The episode is about Lucy giving birth to a child. The episode reaffirms that despite the changes regarding the roles of women, they still have to perform their childbearing roles.

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.

The article describes how women’s roles changed in the 1940s and how this took a new turn after WW2. It emerges that while many women secured working opportunities across various sectors that changed after the War because men returned and occupied third positions. The focus on the transition makes the source suitable for this assignment.

Thede, R. (2019). A Black Lady Sketch Show. USA: HBO.

The African American film shows how women are dependent in the contemporary society. However, it shows that men still dominates certain aspects.

VCServiceExcellence. (n.a.). Lucy and the chocolate factory high res. Retrieved from

The episode shows Lucy working in a chocolate factor, an indication that women had the chance to work for money. It also shows that women had the chance to serve as leaders, thus reaffirming that the society had confidence in them.

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

The website identifies and discusses some of the feminists who have gained prominence in the modern world. It explains what they have done to achieve the title, something that makes it suitable for this task.

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