Today marks the start of Women’s History Month. Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said in the 1970s, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” We are mesmerized by the incredible ladies who paved the path for future generations as trailblazers.
The term bombshell is a fitting word for the women of the WWII era. It refers to the explosive effects that women had on the viewer based on one’s beauty. It also connects to their war jobs at munition factories. They produced militaryequipment at top speeds. Factories became a source of liberation for young women who ventured out into the world. According to the National Women’s History Museum “wages in munitions plants and aircraft factories averaged more than those for traditional female jobs. Women abandoned traditional jobs, particularly domestic service, to work in war production plants offering 40 percent higher wages. Women who entered war production were primarily working-class wives, widows, divorcees, and students who needed the money.” In women’s new liberated life, they learned a manufacturing craft and aided the Ally cause.
These new gatherings tested the former social limits for male and female relations. Louise Johnson, who worked at Defense Industries Limited in Ajax, Ontario, she met her future husband during her shift. When they finished their shifts, young adults would often gather in the dancing halls to relax and celebrate their daily success of living and trying to sustain other lives abroad. In these night scenes, big band music would create a sensational environment in which to jive and demonstrate other skills such as flirting. These relationships would later be the foundation of the new generation of Baby Boomers who solidified their unions in marriage. The years of rationing and waiting would cause an economic surge in the post-war years. Consumption levels would boom since an incredible amount of new households were created which needed all the basics such as appliances, furniture, and other décor. But in this realm, women would be requested as their civic duty to return home and serve their family. America desired a “return to normalcy” in the post-war years.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein shaped my adolescent curiosity with science and technology. The powerful creature in the novel represents an era in which she lived. England transformed into modern times. Machines increased efficiency and replaced men in factory settings. Shelley noted these changes with her book’s alternative title, The Modern Prometheus. Society feared that the rapid development of technology, although first appearing benign, may be overcome by its own precarious power. Shelley’s monster reminds us of the potential pitfalls with advancing medicine without knowing its side effects.
Frankenstein was first published anonymously. Her manuscript’s preface was written by her well-known husband, P.B. Shelley, who was a part of her writing circle. Mary developed her story when her literary friends started a competition. She penned this story after she had a frightful nightmare about her creature. She eventually would take credit for this story which would be her most successful piece. Her successful writing career could also be attributed to her literary line by whose name she also bears. Her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, a pioneer in feminist theory, wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Both mother and daughter would be known for their writing in an age when women’s roles were limited.
A women participating in a 1942 war conservation campaign that asked for donated stockings. These materials were re-purposed into powder bags that the US Navy used to propel missile projectiles.
Women fencers cross foils, c. 1900
Trümmerfrauen, German “rubble women”, cleared post-WWII city debris and were given extra ration cards for their efforts. Cities like Dresden and Berlin were slowly restored by women who were only given basic tools and used their bare hands for this hard labor.
A zipline date, c. 1920s.
Gemini 19 Refrigerator, 1966. The Cold War ideology and space race technology being manifested in the household.
A 1937 all-female string band, The Coon Creek Girls, in Ohio.
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”
-Corrie Ten Boom, Holocaust survivor
“Miss Carlyle & Miss Clarke, The Gibson Girls”
Audrey Hepburn, 1957.
Women’s volleyball match, early 20th century.
Greta Garbo, 1936.
“Girls of Room 3, Class of ‘92.”Commercial High School Class of 1892, San Francisco
Greenhill Ladies Orchestra, c. Early 20th Century
Artist and entrepreneur, Esther Howland (1828–1904) was the first person to mass produce Valentine’s Day cards. Her work had intricate designs and created high demand for her products. Although long forgotten, Howland’s New England Valentine Company was a thriving entity and the forerunner of modern card companies.
Mary Anderson filed a patent for a “window cleaning device” for automobiles in June 18, 1903. During her time, window wipers were dismissed as being superfluous since cars had speed limitations. It wouldn’t be until the 1940s that her valuable item became a standard part of vehicles.
Betty Wales Dressmakers Advertisement. Ladies Home Journal, Sept. 1922.