How Did the Second World War Both Change and Reinforce Gender Norms?

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1291 Words
Date:  2022-06-02


Before the Second World War, gender segregation was highly practised, women were only allowed to stay at home. During this time, both men and women followed the set gender roles and observed the expectations of the society in a strict way. The father was expected to go out and look for food for the family while the mother was to take care of the siblings back at home. Even though some women participated in different roles in the society, their contribution was not highly valued when compared to that of men. Women were categorized as minorities, and many men had a negative attitude towards women. During world war one, women did not play major roles in the war, and as a result, the war had little effects on the gender norms that existed. However, World War II brought a change to the different gender norms, and there was a revolution in the workforce. The number of women who were working outside their homes increased and their contributions to the society started to be recognized. The need for more soldiers to participate in the war led to changes in the gender norms that existed. During World War II, women played different major roles. They were used to provide different supplies for the military in the war and also offered any support required of them. Some women even joined the military and joined men in the war.

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World war II brought a lot of changes into the modern world. Women made a significant effect in the war and later helped in transforming their nation. The involvement of America helped shape the country into what it is today. The Second World War was one of the greatest and affected millions of people. The war started when Britain and France declared war on Germany for invading Poland. The war was fought for over six years, and millions of people were killed as a result of the war. The United States wanted to be neutral in the war due to several neutrality acts it had signed. However, this was not the case, the bombing of the Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, which was one of the military bases, made the U.S. join the war. Around 16 million U.S. citizens were involved in the war, and the participation caused great effects back at home. The war called for more men to join the military. As a result, the number of men working in the factories reduced and thus a solution to fill the gaps left was needed. Women at home were brought into the factories to fill the positions of the men who were fighting overseas. With the women working in the factories, American companies were able to achieve their highest productions during that period. The increased production caused a change in the demand for labour.

The majority of the women in the workforce at the time were the minority. The middle and the upper-class families allowed women to stay at home with the children while men were in the war. Before the war, women were not allowed to work in industries and companies as it was believed that they would take away the job of men. During the war, women were allowed into industries and companies as many believed their contribution was temporary. Women were not used to going out and looked for jobs in companies and industries, and thus the government had to come up with better ways of recruiting women in the workforce. This led to growth to the development of different propaganda. Patriotism made many women go to work in the companies as they did not want to see their military lose in the battle. By working in the companies, women were able to learn different skills that they applied back home. The war provided an opportunity for women to challenge the existing gender norms but this came with a lot of criticism.

In Germany, World War II brought different changes in the gender norms that existed. Before the war, women were excluded from all positions of responsibility and were only required to take the care of the children at home. The Nazi doctrine recognized women as people who were only important for motherhood and procreation. The rise of Adolf Hitler as the chancellor led to the restriction of many women rights. Hitler saw no need for women to work while their husbands were working. In schools, girls were taught that their obligation was to stay at home. The second world war brought changes into policies of national socialists and women were allowed to join the military. In the military, women played different roles. They were responsible for administrative duties, they acted as doctors to the injured soldiers, and other women filled factory positions and military education.

Adolescent girls during the time were employed in agricultural farms to help in the farming program. The invasion of the Soviet army in Berlin led to a lot of suffering among many women. The invasion led to the destruction of a lot of property, and many women were subjected to inhumane acts such as rape. Men were not around to defend the women, and thus there was a need for some women to rise and defend other women. Some women befriended the invading soldiers as a way to stop the many rape cases. Other women utilized their friendship to look for food supplies for other women and their children. Later, the Russian soldiers left Berlin and women were used to provide labour with an aim to build the economy. After the war, there was a change in the gender norms, women gained more rights and were involved in nation-building activities.

Before the world war two, many women in France had limited rights. However, with the invasion of the Germans, many French men were called to join military, and thus women had to stand up and fill the positions left. This led to many women to start working for pay to feed their families. Women who were married to soldiers were given priority during employment so that they could feed their families. Some laws passed made female labour an obligation in most companies. This led to many women being employed in different companies and industries. Women were allowed to work in any company where there was a vacancy. Germans still occupied some parts of France; the Germans employed French women to work in their companies and entertainment industries. In solidarity with their husbands, some women joined the military where they offered reinforcements. Women were not only allowed to join the military, but they were also allowed to join the police force.


France suffered great loses after it was defeated by Germany in the world war two. After the defeat, German soldiers occupied most parts of France and led to the development of an authoritarian regime. To help in rebuilding the country, France came up with a restoration program that would help reconstruct the state. During the reconstruction period, women gained more political powers when they were allowed to participate in the voting process. A lot of people died during the war, and the population of the country went down. To motivate mothers to give more birth, an official Mothers Day was made a national holiday. After the war, many women took the role of family heads and acted as breadwinners.


Boehm, Philip. A woman in Berlin: diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945. London: Virago, 2011.

Michel, Sonya. 1987. "American Women the Discourse of the Democratic Family in World War II". Behind the Lines : Gender and the Two World Wars / Margaret Randolph Higonnet ... [Et Al.].. n.d.

Paxton, Robert O. French Peasant Fascism: Henry Dorgeres' Greenshirts and the Crises of French Agriculture, 1929-1939. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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How Did the Second World War Both Change and Reinforce Gender Norms?. (2022, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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