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Maps and Cityscapes
People and the Humanities

"And then in my spare time ..."

Bob Barnes for OWI. ca. 1943
Library of Congress

Editorial cartoon from the Des Moines Register, 1943
The National D-Day Museum, New Orleans

Introduction

We focus this week on the issues and concerns facing women in society from WWII through the postwar era. In the Lecture, Professor Mayer discusses problem on women's roles in WWII, during demobilization, and in the developing idea of the New Femininity of the 1950s. He also focuses on the popular and political debates around women's roles and asks us to consider the disparity between reality and ideal.

Maps and Cityscapes presents WWII posters of women at work and discusses the topic of working women during the war. Tribal Perspectives looks at the American Indian Women's Service League (AIWSL), a Seattle-based Indian activist group.

In People and the Humanities, we discuss the Kwik-Lok, the bread tie invented by Floyd Paxton of Yakima, WA and images of women in promotional films of the 1950s. The Research section presents our top reading and viewing picks for this topic.

Assignment suggestions for this week’s content include:

  • The causes of change in the status of women. Did working and service during WWII lead to substantial change or did it reflect change that was already coming?
  • Professor Mayer discusses the difference between the reality of many women's lives and the ideal they sought to reflect. What are the causes and consequences of such a disconnect? Do such disconnects exist for other groups and at other historical times?
  • What did the changing role of women mean to men of the time? Is fear of and resistance to this change simply a reflection of sexism, or is it somehow more complex, and therefore more understandable?