The Important Roles Played by essay

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Women were also a significant part of the civilian staff, committing their
abilities as typists, phone switchboard operators and facility
Likewise, on the home front, women would commit their services in
place of their husbands, fighting abroad. In fact, the term home front
should be well understood as one coined with the psychological intention of
conveying that those who were enlisted in one manner or another for
civilian duty were themselves a crucial force in the war effort. The
terminology of 'home front' implies that such domestic locales as the
continental United States were to be seen as war theatre's demanding of
unified and concerted participation in shared goals of conservation, labor
and administrative support.
For women in all walks of American life, the end of the Depression
would coincide with the start of World War II, making the association
between job creation and the war effort fully inextricable. Quite in fact,
the period prior to the war had been one of desperation. Though President
Roosevelt's New Deal would begin to put many back to work, this would be a
slow climb back to a tolerable employment threshold. By contrast, with the
start of war and the shipping of young and able-bodied men overseas by the
tens of thousands, a job surplus and a need for workers was for the first
time demanding that employers turn their attention to women. Thus,
military civilian duties such as secretarial responsibilities, typing,
switchboarding, radio operating and nursing would create countless jobs
which by virtue of their availability would court women specifically.
In an interview maintained by the U.S. Library of Congress, Ann
Caracristi would discuss one such responsibility. She would report to
being recruited by the military for participation in a project designed to
compile and break Japanese radio codes. As her stories indicates, she and
two of her fellow classmates out of high school were among the many women
which were specifically targeted for this type of responsibility. As
Caracristi would tell of her surprise recruitment to the military civilian
sector, "it was all very mysterious. When I was assigned they said, 'Well,
you're going to work on the Japanese problem.' And I said, "Oh, heavens, I
don't know anything about Japanese!' 'Don't worry,' they said, 'You'll
learn.' Well what I learned to do was sort endless amounts of paper that
was indeed the messages that had been intercepted and forwarded back for
analysis. And the first thing you had to do was sort them. Edit them. And
editing meant that we were preparing them to be typed up and put into the
databanks of the day, which were the IBM cards. And that's the way we all
started."[2] Caracristi's story is just one of countless narratives in
which the United States military and government openly sought out
candidates for service from all girls schools as a way to create personnel
for key support roles in the military without drawing from the pool of male
combat personnel and officers.
Though almost exclusively in auxiliary roles to combat and officer
roles, there are yet examples where the need for numbers would cause
concerted recruitment of women to function as officers within their own
demographic contexts. Captain Violet Gordon was an anomaly even within the
challenging context, as an African American woman with professional
experience and the qualifications to be made into an officer. She
describes her own entrance into the military under these conditions. In a
2002 interview on the subject, Gordon states of her decision to respond to
the military's call for African American women that "this was such a bold
step in a way. One has to remember that at that time the Army was
segregated and number two there were nurses but there were no enlisted or
women officers as an official part of the Army. Of course, this would not
be officially a part of the Army; it would be an Auxiliary branch of the
Army. There were pros and cons"[3] The cons would be the bigotry and
segregation under which she would be forced to operate even in interaction
with her own allies. However, the pros are the reverberation of her daring
move and that of her contemporaries, who occupy a position as one of the
most pointedly oppressed demographics in American history but who would
serve with dignity and honor when the United States called upon them. In
Gordon, we are given an example of the ways in which female officer
recruits were intended to be used as a means to relating to and instructing
corps of female auxiliary personnel.
Of course, one of the most highly visible, thoroughly publicized and
affectionately remembered of roles for women during World War II would be
through the USO. This organization would be responsible for providing
entertainment and morale improvement to the troops both training in
domestic military camps and serving on the front lines overseas. Dancing
performances, comedy acts and other forms of distraction would be staged
before audiences of soldiers. Thus, performances would often be geared
toward the interests of men, with singers, dancers, actresses and
celebrities helping the men to channel strength from feelings for a
sweetheart back home.
Perhaps the most famous example of a women in service to the morale
of male soldiers would be the USO sponsored radio star Martha Wilkerson,
who used American music recordings and cute, lighthearted banter to conjure
sentimental feelings for America while on the front. Known by her radio
moniker, G.I. Jill, Wilkerson was a something of a phenomenon to American
servicemen, who depended on her broadcasts for comfort way from home. From
an article published in Time Magazine in 1945, this role as a morale
booster and a bastion for cultural resonance to soldiers battling unknown
enemies in strange lands is explicated. "As a War Department employee,
Martha Wilkerson acts as a sort of counterirritant to 'Tokyo Rose.'
Servicemen who listen regularly to both programs assure Jill that hers is
superior. For one thing, Rose's records are mostly old and scratchy. But
the explanation may be more basic. The fair flower of Tokyo exerts herself
mightily to make U.S. servicemen homesick; G.I. Jill's trick is to make
them feel at home."[4] Tokyo Rose, a Japanese radio personality of renown,
would bear a symbolic importance to soldiers of varying origins throughout
the war in the Pacific. So too would G.I. Jill, with the two demonstrating
the capacity of the feminine charm to help sustain men in dire
Though it may be argued that such roles as those created by the USO
tended only to emphasize assumptions about the importance of women only in
a supplementary way to the contributions made by men, they would
nonetheless be considered a crucial ingredient to creating and sustaining
the psychological fortitude needed to emerge from this conflict victorious.
Of course, beyond the symbolic roles of women and their military
responsibilities, there would also be a clear sense in the United States
and Great Britain that the shipping off of men by the thousands had left
the home line defenses entirely up to the female population. While so many
women sought out and found opportunities in the administrative ranks of the
military, that many more simply stepped into the vacant roles left by their
husbands. An example comes to us in an interview with Arthella Anderson, a
civilian service participant in WWI. Anderson tells of her
responsibilities in place of her husband, away in training, as her town's
air raid supervisor. Though it had been his job prior to the start of the
war, she filled in as the primary enforcement figure for the paramilitary
duty. Anderson recalls, "my husband was an air raid warden and he worked
shift work at American Viscose, and it seemed to me like every time we had
a blackout it was my -- I had to take his place. So you had to go with a
flashlight and you had to see that every house was dark."[5]
Anderson's interview is also useful for its exposition of the feelings
experienced by many women in civilian and wartime service at that time.
From the attack on Pearl Harbor to the time at which the Japanese had
surrendered, Anderson underlines a certain sense of dread felt by all over
the implications of war. She specifically notes the experience shared by
women in service on the homefront, who remained behind to work under the
pressure of a terrible fear concerning who would be next to surrender his
life overseas. With word returning to small towns regularly about the
deaths of husbands, fathers, brothers and sons, Anderson's interview is
underscored by the shared female experience of unsettling disconcert. As
part of a homefront force with a strong sense of responsibility in this
war, its relative distance from contiguous American soil was not sufficient
to insulate the civilian women's workforce from the realities…[continue]

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