Photo (l-r) Mom, her sisters Esther and Ethel. When I was growing up there was a major revolution going on in America as a result of World War II. Most of the men were off fighting the war, and the women were holding down the home front while also having a career outside the home. I was surrounded by strong women role models. My aunt Esther was one of those who became a welder working in the shipyards in Long Beach, California. She became quite good at welding and was able to contribute extra money to the family’s income as well as help out with the war effort.
My own widowed mom also had a career to support us as a telephone operator. It paid her a modest salary. She seemed to enjoy working as an operator helping others to find their telephone numbers and connecting them in the growing metropolis of Los Angeles. My aunt Ethel in Utah worked at Geneva Steel as a secretary while her husband was serving in the Navy during the war. They even provided on site childcare for her two sons, a new development in those days. Times were changing and women’s roles in the family were expanding to include the possibility of a career as well as being a wife, mother and homemaker.
The concept of career women was quite new then as most women and little girls had been taught since birth to prepare to be a good homemaker, wife and mother after graduation from high school. If you didn’t marry then if was okay to get further education or training and have a career as a secretary, nurse or school teacher. During high school, homemaking classes were organized with cooking and sewing classes required for young women, and shop required for the young men.
But times were changing, though girls were still required to wear dresses or skirts to school. Most moms wore high heels and nylons with their house dresses whether at home or work. There was of course always an apron added at home to keep the dress clean. Some moms even started to wear slacks to make it easier to work at their new jobs. When dads returned from the war, it was difficult for women to give up this new independence and return to their old lifestyles. Our viewpoints were changing. Some would say for the better, others disagreed.
What strong women have influenced your life?