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Grace Carlson

The Forgotten Woman

(18 May 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 20, 18 May 1946, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Keep ’em rolling!” “Keep ’em flying!” “Keep ’em sailing!” with such appeals to patriotic sentiment, American industry tried to build up its womanpower during the war.

Millions of American women streamed into the nation’s war plants, but it is doubtful whether the patriotic appeals played a very big role in bringing them there. Much more important was the fact that war work offered the vast majority of these women workers their first opportunity for jobs at better wages.

American industrialists sang the praise of the woman worker – her ability to learn a skilled trade; her speed; her general adaptability. Opportunities were given women workers for almost every kind of trade-training. Women welders, women machinists, women sheet metal workers, women boilermakers found ready employment in shipyards, aviation plants, railroad yards, and machine shops.

But the days when the American industrialist wooed the woman worker are gone! American capitalism is back at its peacetime “normal.” The skilled woman worker has become “the forgotten woman.”

Since V-J Day, 4,000,000 women workers have been dropped from the country’s labor force, the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor reported recently. The most startling drop was revealed by the Ford Motor Company. In the peak year of 1943, women made up 22 per cent of the workers in the Ford plants throughout the country. In January of 1946, they were only 4 per cent.

Hundreds of thousands of skilled women workers are crowding the offices of the United States Employment Service looking for jobs.

Spokesmen of the USES say that the big majority of these women will not be rehired even when full production has been resumed. Many employers have instructed the USES not to send them any women workers. Orders which during the war specified women, now say “men only.”

To deal with this new situation, all of the agencies of capitalist propaganda have been set going to persuade women that, after all, they really belong in the kitchen – or, if they must work to support their families, they should go into a more “feminine” line of work, like low- paid domestic service.

Gone are the days when pictures of movie stars modeling the latest in war plant uniforms were prominently displayed in newspapers and magazines. Pick up any copy of Woman’s Home Companion, Good Housekeeping, Ladies’ Home Journal or McCall’s Magazine these days and you will find an article urging women to change from “drab wartime clothes” into something “frilly and feminine.”

And in the Food sections of these magazines, you will now look in vain for the “Quick Meals for Busy Women,” which used to fill these pages during the war. Now you will find that women are being urged “to end wartime hurry and glamorize your meals.” A multitude of recipes are given for complicated cakes and pastries; for fussy garnishes – “egg daisies,“ “radish roses,” “cucumber baskets,” etc.

But despite all of this advice as to the best ways to achieve a “home-made” glamor most women would prefer a factory job at high wages and a chance to buy their glamor – especially in the form of decent living standards which help maintain good health and natural beauty.

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Last updated: 23 December 2018