Many employers refused to hire women despite governmental regulations, or hired them at much lower rates than their male counterparts. While society was expanding their gender role again, the limitations surrounding this expansion left women confused as to their position in society (Rupp, 74). Even those who supported the new roles accepted them only in a temporary fashion, expected women to return again to their role of homemaker and wife following the war years (Rupp, 75).
When America claimed victory, the positions held by women were extinguished. The men returned home, and resumed their roles as the main bread winner of the family. However, the gender role shift for women did not allow some to simply return to their previous lives. Women had found a freedom in employment, and had fought discrimination and achieved social and economic mobility without the assistance of males. Many women chose to continue their employment, even at lower wages, for an opportunity to continue their positions of power and independence (Rupp, 76).
By the 1950's, gender roles were further challenged as those women in the workforce began to fight for equality in society. Simultaneously, those women serving as housewives began again, as in the 1920's, to become concerned about fashion, music, and television. While one-half of single women were employed, only one fourth of married women were employed, showing again a clear definition of women in society. As in previous years, the sociological trend was for single women to appear as objects of desire and independence, but on marriage, were to revert to wife and mother (Milkman, 22).
By the 1960's, sociological trends of gender roles again showed a change. Birth control pills were approved, allowing women the freedom of sexuality without responsibility. The sexual revolution ensued, securing women in their role of sexy, appealing, and free spirits. Men, on the other hand, could now freely pursue sexual activity without thoughts of family or responsibility. This shift, unprecedented in history, allowed women to assume responsibility for their own sexuality, and forced men to give the power over family planning to the female (Cawthorne, 45).
In addition to the change of roles pertaining to sexuality, women were awarded equal pay for equal employment, allowed the right to abort, and found themselves again in control of their own decisions. Sociological trends again altered, giving women the freedom to make their own decisions, and have a say in their own education, employment, and future choices. Female independence became a mainstay in society as opposed to a forced effect of war or conflict (Cawthorne, 76).
From this point forward, gender roles continued to blend, furthering the equality of men and women. During the 1970's, women were allowed in the U.S. Army, making a previously male role open to both sexes. The Education Amendments act ensured women could pursue any academic field of their choice, further blurring the gender role line. During the 1980's, the first woman was allowed on the U.S. Supreme Court, showing women could assume the highest political and legal roles of the country. Women excelled in the Olympic Games, showing women could achieve the same physical attainments as men. By the 1990's, women were prominent in politics, military, education, and all other areas of society.
There can be no question that throughout history, society has shaped and formed the gender roles of both sexes to suit the needs of the country. But with each step, society introduced new opportunities to women that allowed them to cross gender barriers, and become equal members of society. From the homemaker of the 1920's to the flapper, from the housewife to the welder, and from the educator to the Supreme Court justice, women have consistently continued to broaden their roles in society. Trends of society, which originally deemed women as only useful for homemakers, altered with the changes in the world, and forced changes that made gender roles nearly extinct. Today, women and men are nearly equal in the U.S., and with each change in the social concepts of the world, this trend expands. It is clear that the future holds only more equality, and a further blurring of gender roles that will eventually eliminate the differences between the sexes and will provide equality and a single role for all of the population.
Allen, Frederick. Since Yesterday: The 1930's in America. New York: Perennial, 1986.
American Centuries. Gender Roles. 1998. Memorial Hall. 19 April, 2007. http://www.memorialhall.mass.edu/turns/view.jsp?itemid=1344&subthemeid=2.