As the simmering crisis preceding World War II boiled into total war, customs preventing certain professions from women were set aside as America’s economy was mobilized for a war effort the likes of which the nation had never seen before.
Hundreds of thousands of women served in the armed forces, and many times more found themselves (and their households) being asked to contribute in new and different ways.
This effort was multi-faceted and both public & private in nature. Rose the Riveter was one symbol created by the US government, aimed at encouraging women to enter jobs at munitions manufacturers filling roles vacated by new enlistees.
Government efforts at chronicling and promoting the mobilization ended up consolidated in the Office of War Information by 1943. OWI photographers were the last to be funded by the government in a tradition begun a decade earlier by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as part of the New Deal.
These photographs depict the variety of roles women found themselves during these years.
The Burpee Seeds company, as it was colloquially known, had introduced a “war gardens” campaign in World War I that turned into “victory gardens” by World War II.
Located in the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot complex located along South 20th street, these employees of an Eastern quartermaster corps depot are sewing sleeves into army overcoats.
The Quartermaster Depot was expanded from the Schuykill Arsenal, which had been built on the site in 1800 and supplied the outfitting for the Lewis and Clark expedition. The complex was known locally as “the compound” and has provided ample employment for the area.