Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Snapshot of Women during WWII

I've always been fascinated by the women of Britain and the United States during WWII. From cooking on rations to the restrictions on clothing and beauty products, it has always been a keen interest of mine.  The value placed on a stiff upper lip 'Keep Calm and Carry On' and the charge of waste not want not in  'Make Do and Mend'  is something of an enigma in our modern time. And although in our current atmosphere we do have great recycling programs and are starting to put emphasis on renewable energy sources - how many of us throw out items when they become well worn or torn? I know I certainly do! And how many of us place more value on home grown foods and preservation's over heading to our local grocery store? I think heading to the store for a couple of items is pretty darn easy, I'll admit.  I guess in a way, what I've come to realize, is I am fascinated by these strong and industrious women because I, myself, lack the same skill set and industriousness as they did.  I certainly wouldn't do well in the stiff upper lip category. And, admittedly so, I am modern in almost every way - sometimes to a fault.

Housewife Patriotism in WWII

Rationing is always the first thing on my mind when I think of women living during wartime.  Since cooking and dining were an everyday task, is it little wonder why rationing was such an overwhelming part of life on the homefront?  And as the war continued onwards, so did restrictions on such things as gasoline, hosiery, rubber and food products.

Food, being a concern to many a housewife, was a very real and critical part of learning to live during the war. How they went about feeding their families and staving off malnutrition became a focus of  both the British government and the United State's government. Governmental programs such as The United State's 'Office of Price Administration' and Great Britain's 'Food Ministry' concerned themselves not only with rationing but also with instructing the public on ways to make food last and how to cook with what they had.  Ration booklets were distributed to each house with explicit instructions on how to use them and what they could and could not buy during a given period of time.
An example of a ration book given out to American citizens during WWII (ameshistory).
Rationing was crucial during WWII and was considered extremely patriotic, although there was a black market for certain products, most women made do under rationing.  And there were plenty of pamphlets and cookbooks in order to help the housewives of wartime Britain and USA with running a home on such restrictions.
Above is a an example of wartime rations.  There were certain allowances for pregnant women, infants and children. For example, children were given cod liver oil in order to maintain proper nutrition.  Many modern day experts believe that the wartime rations actually made for a fitter, healthier public (Health and Medicine Guardian Newspaper).  
The above snapshot gives a very real picture of what a family had for rationing.  To find out more about how one family lived on wartime rations explore the link provided! "Could a Modern Family Live on Wartime Rations?" One British family's quest for health: UK Dailymail

Women played a crucial role in WWII both at home as well as in newly created jobs such as those of the Land Army and Auxiliary Corps, "Nearly 350,000 American women served in uniform, both at home and abroad, volunteering for the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs, later renamed the Women’s Army Corps), the Navy Women’s Reserve (WAVES), the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS), the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS), the Army Nurses Corps, and the Navy Nurse Corps. General Eisenhower felt that he could not win the war without the aid of the women in uniform. “The contribution of the women of America, whether on the farm or in the factory or in uniform, to D-Day was a sine qua non of the invasion effort.” (Ambrose, D-Day 489, National WWII Museum).  In other words, women not only maintained the home under rationing and restrictions, often with the very real threat of bombardments, they also served as important military and civilian contributors. Talk about strength under enormous pressure!

One of my favorite pictures of Rosie the Riveter, the icon of wartime women, using a blow torch to heat her lunch.  With a great population of men off fighting, women stepped into the workforce and were crucial in keeping the factories open and assembly lines rolling.  Contributing to the creation of many wartime devices, everything from bombs to airplanes, women were now needed outside of the home like never before. 

Many women joined various uniformed services to help fight the war. This poster, as well as many others, showcased the importance of women volunteering. blitzkriegbaby

The enormous boost for patriotism both in Britain and in the United States, carried over into fashion. Going utilitarian was considered important because it meant using less materials which could be better suited elsewhere and incorporating newly synthetic fabrics.  "In the year 1942, a group known as the Incorporated Society of Fashion Designers created over 30 different new utility clothing designs. This particular group most likely was the one that made the most out of the simplistic clothing style trend of this time.  For the women, the suits that this company made were not as broad-shoulders as others (but were still squared). The jackets and skirts of these suits were more contoured to the shape of a woman’s body, and looked more feminine than other box-cut patterned women’s suits of the time" (thepeoplehistory).

The Utilitarian look of many service women was not only used by those employed but also on the homefront.  To get a better understanding of how important clothing was during wartime here is a link to an article regarding proper undergarments for women in uniform: The Daily Telegraph, Sept 2, 1939:

Reflecting that life in wartime was both dark and industrious, fashion went simple.  Practical and stylish shoes, broad shouldered fitted jackets, and tightly hugging skirts in simple and muted colors reflected the wartime need for diligence and steadfastness. 

Women in wartime had it tough yet they were industrious, oft-fearless, smart, diligent, hardworking and courageous.  There is a reason why we call the folks from that era 'the greatest generation' because they simply were amazing.  They came together and rallied together in a unique and awe-inspiring way.  If I could utilize just a fraction of their courage and industriousness I think I would be so much better off in life.

Don't go anywhere yet!!
I made Lord Woolton Pie tonight and I just have to share it...
I haven't had a meal this good in a long time and it really is a hearty and filling meal.

**I did do some minor alterations to the above recipe:  I didn't use any vegetable extract because I didn't have any on hand.  The only veggies I used were a baggie of baby carrots chopped, one yellow onion chopped, a handful of cauliflowers (they were leftovers) and a bunch of green onions chopped.  I also used 2 tablespoons of oatmeal.  For the topping I mixed 1 tablespoon of shortening, a couple tablespoons of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and about 2 tablespoons of cooked potatoes.  I mashed everything together until it formed a dough (sprinkle with water and additional flour until it forms a sort of dough).  I then flattened out the dough and placed it over the pie. However, if you wanted to do a more simplified version of the topping just follow the directions above.  The pie came out great and I topped each personal serving with some Bistro Brand Brown Onion Gravy!

Lord Woolton Pie! So yummy and hearty.

Okay, now I am really finished.

For additional information about WWII life on the Homefront check out these links: (one of my favorite sites about women during WW2) (Another favorite of mine - tons of great recipes)

There are literally too many movies, documentaries and TV series to make a list regarding WWII so here are just a few I found offered through Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime:

Netflix (may or may not be available at any given time):
Land Girls
Bomb Girls
Foyle's War
The Bletchley Circle
Murder on the Homefront
Island at War

Amazon Prime (may or may not be available for Prime at any given time):
Silent Wings
Band of Brothers

No comments:

Post a Comment