WWII meant opportunity for many women, oppression for others

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A man's role in World War II was clear - if he was able-bodied, he went off to fight. The iconic image of women in World War II is Rosie the Riveter, a made-up character in a poster promoting the need for women to step into manufacturing jobs vacated by men. But there also were women in the armed forces and others who tended to the home fires. Like men, many of them never forgot "The War," as a few tell filmmaker Ken Burns in his new seven-part PBS series that began Sunday on PBS....

Some historians believe women's entry into industrial jobs hastened societal and economic changes already occurring in the American landscape and might have lit a fuse that contributed to the women's rights movement 20 years later.

Mills College history Professor Marianne Sheldon says that while previous wars also put women to work, the seeds of significant social change for American women were planted during World War II.

"Maybe in general, war dislocates but does not become an agent of lasting change. However, war and World War II specifically did encourage questioning, the full implications of which take time to become evident," she says. "In some ways, the domestic circumstances of the war fostered the roots of the civil rights movement and the women's rights movement that built on it. Many women who lived through World War II came to want different lives for their daughters."

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