Work, Duty, Glamour: How They Sold War Work To Housewives

» 16 July 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Publishing » 2 Comments

Ive found the job where I fit best

Rosie the Riveter is an American icon that symbolizes the hardworking and self-sacrificing women who left the household and filled the war jobs that turned America into WWII's "Arsenal of Democracy." Most people's visualization of Rosie is based on J. Howard Miller's poster "We Can Do It!" Lacking copyright protection, it's everywhere from history textbooks to coffee mugs. (I confess to using it for my cover below) But it's a much bigger story than Rosie. The era is rich with public domain films, posters, pamphlets and cartoons that provide the contemporary reader with insights into the gender, race and class stereotypes of the period.

Recruiting Rosie

I've been exploring Homefront America WWII in three media-rich, multi-touch iBooks - Why We Fight, Workers Win the War, and now Recruiting Rosie: The Sales Pitch That Won a War. (All are free at iTunes.)

The Homefront series use WWII-era media to document the US government's propaganda efforts. "Recruiting Rosie" focusses on how Washington's media campaign targeted women - first coaxed them out of their homes to fill the jobs left vacant by men going off to war - then reversed course four years later to convince women to give up their factory jobs to returning servicemen and return to the roles of wife and mother in the home.

While there was great diversity in the women who did war work, the media campaign almost exclusively featured white women.

Women have always been employed in the workplace, especially minority and lower-income women. They needed little encouragement to move to higher paying war jobs. But the demand for wartime labor was so great that the US government launched a propaganda campaign to recruit previously unemployed middle class women into the workplace.

I'm proud... my husband wants me to do my part2

There was little reference to women working to make money - not traditionally an acceptable role for married middle class woman. Instead, propaganda was filled with themes of patriotism, sacrifice and duty that depicted war work and military service as fashionable and glamorous. 

The documents in "Recruiting Rosie" explore the many facets of the campaign to mobilize women in WWII. For example, an often neglected part of the story is the extensive effort that was put into convincing factory owners and male co-workers that women could make efficient employees. As a foreman at an aircraft factory noted, "I honestly don't believe any of us expected them [the women workers] to last the day."

"Women scare me … at least they do in a factory."

"Supervising Women Workers" a 1944 film designed to train plant managers opens with a male foreman telling his boss "women scare me … at least they do in a factory." His boss replies "women are not naturally familiar with mechanical principles or machines .. you have to separate every job into simple operating steps."

women want to get it over-4

A 1943 article called “Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees” includes:

Tip #1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they're less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

Tip #3. General experience indicates that "husky" girls — those who are just a little on the heavy side — are more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

WWII-era middle class couples needed to be convinced that it was acceptable and safe for women to take jobs outside the house and work in a factory. A well-coordinated sales campaign churned out films, new stories and posters that lauded former housewives who readily mastered new industrial tasks.

It's Your War TooWomen were also needed to fill the ranks of many service jobs on the homefront, as well as enlist in the military to replace men who were being moved to the war front. The glamour of travel and the chance to meet men reoccur as dominant themes. "Its Your War Too" a recruitment film for the Women's Army Corps (WACs) spends much of the film proving that WACs are fun, feminine, and glamorous - they get to wear makeup, choose their own hairstyles, and travel the world - always with handsome male officers as escorts.

Free Bomber Trip to Berlin

Out of the Frying Pan Into the Firing Line

WWII required an enormous commitment of American resources and labor. Here at home, millions of families were called upon to make personal sacrifices and work harder to provide the resources needed to fight the war. Women were told to give up all luxuries and devote their energies to help win the war. "Recruiting Rosie" documents it all from asking women to volunteer on farms to a 1942 Minnie Mouse cartoon explaining how to recycle used cooking fats for armaments.

victory girl

With women stretched between the demands of the workplace and home, childcare emerged as critical issue. "Recruiting Rosie" includes a section detailing the growing fears that without parental supervision, WWII would spawn a generation of juvenile delinquents. As one report noted, "Mothers in large numbers are engaged in full-time employment and are therefore absent from the home the greater part of the day. Home life is greatly changed for many children today, and lack of consistent guidance and supervision from their parents gives them opportunities for activities that may lead to unacceptable behavior."

"How well a man fights depends a little on how well you've done your part in the USO and how nearly ideal an American girl you are."

"Recruiting Rosie" features a 1943 film that depicts youngsters smoking, kids hanging out in shady bars listening to the jukebox, and young women taking up with soldiers as "Victory Girls." "How well a man fights depends a little on how well you've done your part in the USO and how nearly ideal an American girl you are." Changing sexual roles and mores of the era are explored in variety of documents from soldier-crazy "khaki-wacky" girls to a 1943 etiquette guide for teenage girls serving as junior hostesses for troops relaxing at USOs which states, "How well a man fights depends a little on how well you've done your part in the USO and how nearly ideal an American girl you are."

last chance marriage

War production demanded large-scale migrations to industrial centers. With a shutdown of non-military construction, housing was limited and expensive. The wartime challenges to families are well detailed in "Recruiting Rosie." Men and women were torn between putting marriage off or hastily "tying the knot."

This dynamic is captured in the 1944 US War Department pamphlet "Can War Marriages be made to Work?" (illustration at left)

Front_Cover


"Recruiting Rosie" concludes with the dramatic about-face as the war came to a close. The focus shifted to fears of unemployment for returning servicemen. A 1944 pamphlet entitled "Do You Want Your Wife to Work After the War?" opens with:

Will wives be only too glad to give up their strenuous jobs in war plants to return to the job of being homemakers? ... If they must or prefer to stay at home again what will be done to make the tasks of homemaking more attractive? If a woman wants to keep on working after the war what will her husband's attitude be? If there are no longer jobs enough for everyone should a married woman be allowed to work? Does she have as much right as her husband to try to find the work she wants?

The collection is designed to allow the student to "be the historian" as thought-provoking questions guide them through the archives while building their critical thinking / Common Core skills. The book also provides web access to the public domain content so they can remix the historic documents into their own projects.

how to interpret a poster

Document analysis guides are provided in the book. "Stop and Think" prompts accompany the documents and guide student in close reading to reflect on essential questions:

  1. How did WWII impact women and the American family? What opportunities and challenges did the war create for women?
  2. How did the US government craft its propaganda campaign to shape the attitudes of women, their husbands and employers?
  3. How do the documents and their WWII-era depictions of women reflect the historic time period?

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How to Integrate Document-Based History with the Common Core

» 12 February 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, How To, Literacy, Strategies » 2 Comments

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CCSS offers an incentive for teachers to use historic documents to build literacy skills in a content area while empowering students to be the historian in the classroom. But document-based (DBQ) instruction in this context requires four key elements to be successful:
1. The right documents.
2. Knowing how to look at them.
3. Letting students discover their own patterns, then ask students to describe, compare and defend what they found.
4. Basing the task on enduring questions, the kind that students might actually want to answer.

My new multi-touch iBook – “Workers Win the War: Toil and Sacrifice on the US Homefront” – embodies that approach. Here’s how.

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Why Do Teachers Ask Questions They Know the Answers To?

» 06 February 2013 » In Ed Tech, Strategies, Students, Teachers » 6 Comments

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Here’s a TEDx video – The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice – that showcases the power of a PBL / design-based approach to learning. While you watch it, try to think of a meaningful career that looks like filling out a worksheet.

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Four Keys to Teaching Students How to Analyze

» 07 November 2012 » In Ed Tech, How To, Literacy, Publishing, Strategies » 8 Comments

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Too often teachers give students a Venn Diagram and ask them to compare. What looks like analysis on the surface is often no more than re-filling information from the source material into the Venn. Summarizing and comparisons are powerful ways to build content knowledge and critical thinking. But if students are going to master CCSS skills they need to design the model, find a way to express it to others, and have the opportunity self reflect on their product and feedback from peers. Here’s how to teach analyzing.

I will demonstrate how to meet these four keys to teaching analysis with FlipNLearn, a foldable that students design, print and share. It’s an innovative learning tool that students design on a computer, then print on special pre-formatted paper. FlipNLearn is a great way to give students a manageable design challenge that promotes teamwork, self-assessment and reflection. In 30 minutes, or less, they can produce tangible product that blends the best of PBL and CCSS skills in communication.

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Common Core Skills: Deeper Reading and Critical Thinking

» 31 July 2012 » In Ed Policy, History / DBQ's, Literacy, Strategies, Teachers » 2 Comments

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Across the county teachers are looking for lessons and resources to implement new Common Core standards. While some see Common Core skills as something new, most of these skills are exemplified in the well established, document-based approach to instruction. As a long-time advocate of DBQ’s, I’ve re-posted sample lessons (elementary, middle and high school) that demonstrate how to build student skills in literacy and critical thinking, while supporting mastery of the Common Core.

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Flipped My Keynote

» 16 July 2012 » In Ed Tech, Events, How To, PD, Reflection, Strategies, Teachers » 2 Comments

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Keynoters typically show up, explain their model, answer questions, etc. If all goes well, folks leave with an understanding of the ideas you pitched to them. Transfer of content is easy in the digital age, it’s processing the learning that’s the challenge. So I elected to flip my keynote. Why not use one of the strategies I recommend to teachers?

Here’s how I used my two hours – not to present, but to put them through a variety of experiences to provoke their reflections. (With more on how to flip your class.)

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Free Webinar on Higher Order Thinking – the Student Perspective

» 26 January 2012 » In Ed Tech, Events, PD, Presentations, Web 2.0 » No Comments

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One of this year’s resolutions was to begin offering webinars. (not that I don’t enjoy airports) I recently completed my first pilot (description below) and I’m looking for three school sites who would like to try a free pilot webinar and offer me some feedback.

I think professional development should model what we want to see in the classroom. So I’d like to start with an 45-minute experiential webinar called: “Higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) – What’s that look like in the classroom?” We’ll watch a few short video clips, do a few activities to model instruction at different levels of Blooms and then reflect on the experience.

Find out more and submit a request for free webinar. I will select from requests that demonstrate you’ll be easy to work with!

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Studio H Classroom: Design. Build. Transform. Community

» 20 November 2011 » In Events, How To, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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“Studio H: Design. Build. Transform” is a new exhibit that just opened at Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft. It offers visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the design process. Studio H embodies the key elements of project-based learning while inspiring and empowering student as change agents in their community. Studio H is a public high school “design/build” curriculum that sparks rural community development through real-world, built projects. By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and industry-relevant construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.

The MoCC’s Studio H exhibit re-imagines the gallery as a laboratory and teaching space. Visitors get see how students were taught a non-linear design process based on a more authentic learning environment that grows out of a dynamic interplay between research, ideation, development, prototyping and building. The exhibition asks viewers to reflect on how that process can teach the next generation of designers to transform the world for themselves. Artifacts from the studio classroom in rural Bertie County, North Carolina (where Emily Pilloton, and Project H partner Matthew Miller, teach design thinking to high-school students) are on display and illustrate how a socially engaged design process can result in significant and positive solutions.

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Rigor, Relevance, and Project Based Learning

» 06 November 2011 » In How To, Presentations, Strategies, Visualizations » No Comments

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Your students explore their world with an expectation of choice and control that redefines traditional notions of learning and literacy. Increasingly educators are discovering that they can motivate students with a PBL approach that engages their students with the opportunity to think like professionals while solving real-world problems. This workshop gives participants the why, what, and how (to get started) of PBL. Includes my resources and notes for my day-long workshop at SW Wisconsin Business and Education Summit.

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Solve the Problem

» 04 October 2011 » In Commentary, Strategies » 5 Comments

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The key to solving this problem is finding a pattern. That’s a very human skill. Even newborns can soon recognize faces. As Jon Medina has said “We…are terrific pattern matchers, constantly assessing our environment for similarities, and we tend to remember things if we think we have seen them before.”

It’s a pity we don’t do a better job of teaching pattern recognition in school. Uncovering an underlying pattern is essential to constructing meaning. In school we typically “teach” patterns to students as “facts,” rather than ask students to discover the pattern for themselves. Of course this strips the activity of its real value as a learning strategy, and turns into just another thing to memorize. Asking students to file some pre-selected information into a graphic organizer isn’t analysis – it’s just moving stuff around. True analysis involves doing the challenging work of trying to make sense of information.

Enough commentary, have you solved the problem yet?

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