For many women in the United States, World War II was the first time they had ever worked a wage-earning job. Since nearly all able-bodied men were being drafted into the military, and because the country’s private manufacturers were all dedicated to war production, women were recruited to work in the factories, taking jobs that had previously been done only by men. A massive cultural shift occurred, as young women discovered the freedom and independence of earning their own wage, and society accepted that women were capable of working demanding jobs. Although some women returned to traditional roles after the war, the number of working women remained higher than ever before.

“Rosie the Riveter,” propaganda poster created in 1942. The iconic name was not developed until the following year.

We had to suffer anxieties about boys and the girl from our own family, and I had the boys and girls from my classes at the Danbury High School. We wrote “cheerful” letters, we waited for answers, we received final bad news. … We wanted to do our part in the war effort. Many who never worked out of the home, now worked in defense factories—Bantam, Torrington, Bethel, Danbury. I learned to grind bolts for airplane wings after school until eleven or twelve o’clock.

As an unmarried woman, the war gave me a peculiar advantage. In our small Cornwall community, the majority of the men were away, so through the long summers, women had to find companionship in social activities in each other. I found myself pal to Mary Walker, whose husband, Lester, was far off researching for Reader’s Digest articles….

~ Harriet Clark, reminiscencing about World War II in her essay, “Memories of Connecticut Life,” 1988.

Cornwall Women of this Era