World War 1 was a revolutionary movement from 1914-1918 which changed the course of American women’s involvement in the workforce drastically. Before the war, the late 19th century was a time period clearly defined by gender roles and expectations. This time period, known as the Victorian Era, originated from the British Queen Victoria . The period lasted from 1837-1901 and was not limited to Europe as social expectations were carried over to the United States . At this point women were understood to be “the keepers of the home” and their lives were centralized around domestic affairs such as cleaning, cooking, and tending to children.
However, by the onset of the 20th century women were beginning to make gradual and modest strides towards equality within politics as well as the workforce . They began demanding a greater political voice which led to many more women’s suffrage movements within the near future . One such movement was in 1903 when Leonora O’reilly, Rheta Childe Dorr, Mary Dreier, and others formed the Women’s Union Trade League of New York (an organization of middle-and working-class women dedicated to unionization for working women as well as women’s right to vote).
Additionally, by the early 1900s the first wave of feminism was under and women started engaging in activities that were traditionally considered to be “run by men” such as riding a bicycle . This all influenced the direct involvement of women in World War 1 as well as their continued participation within the American workforce after the war had been resolved. Some evidence supports the fact that women became increasingly more active in the American workforce during the 1920s due to their actions during World War 1 . However, some historians believe that women’s participation throughout the war did not benefit them during the 1920s because gender prejudices as well as stereotypes remained strong within the United States.
World War I can be seen to have mixed results for women regarding their involvement in the American workforce during the 1920s. It is undeniable that this period provided a revolutionary experience for women. Their participation gave them a sense of empowerment; enabling them to pursue careers that they may not have been able to previously.
Additionally, with the first waves of feminism taking hold the issue of gender equality was further acknowledged and brought into focus within the American government. However, in some cases the roles for women provided by World War I only emphasized the already existing gender norms within American society as well as the workforce; causing gender prejudices and stereotypes to remain strong within the United States.
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