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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Society's propaganda to change
women's expectations during and after WW2

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The role of women in and immediately after World War Two

Women had been invaluable at doing men's work during the Second World War, and indeed for some years afterwards because demobilisation took time after the war ended in 1945. Neither was it at quick process to repatriate prisoners of war.

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Propaganda to change the role of women after WW2

When the men returned to what was known as 'civvy street', however, they wanted their jobs back, and the Government, understandably, backed them in this.

WW2 propaganda poster to encourage young women to do men's work in the home front

Propaganda poster to encourage young women to take on men's work during World War Two - photographed at Brooklands 1940s Day.

1950s advert, showing a woman with a nipped in waist, a frilly apron and high heals enthusiastically enjoying being in the kitchen

1950s advert, showing a woman with a nipped in waist, a frilly apron and high heals enthusiastically enjoying cooking for the family. Photographed in Milestones Museum.

So began a programme of insidious propaganda that I honestly hadn't appreciated until I started comparing photographs from the 1940s and 1950s. Then I remembered the idiom that seemed to be everywhere in my later childhood and teens:

"A woman's place is in the home."

Just compare the two images below to see how society changed its ideals for women's roles between the early 1940s and afterwards when the propaganda was for women to give up paid work.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

The first, from early 1940s wartime was clearly intended to encourage women into men's work. The second from the 1950s glorifies a woman's love of cooking in her own kitchen and accentuates her feminism.

There is no shortage on the internet of other pictures of women from the 1950s. They almost all show the women apparently enraptured at being at home doing housework, cooking or sewing - essentially being housewives and house proud.

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Fashion accentuates the propaganda of the housewife

Fashion changed too, towards more feminine sex appeal. Skirts became flared with nipped in waists and bras were shaped to give an upturned and pointed shape to breasts. The fashion was called the 'New Look' and my mother remarked how stupid it was to use all that extra fabric in times of such austerity. The priority, though, was to free up the jobs for the returning menfolk.