The National Archives at New York City

Teachable Texts from the National Archives at New York City

Working with Rosie the Riveter: Supervising Women Workers

Description

During the beginning of US involvement in World War II, as factories shifted to wartime production and millions of men were sent overseas to fight in Europe and the Pacific, women of all ages, ethnicities, and marital statuses entered the workforce. While most women were not new to the working world, the specific industries they now began working in were previously occupied by men.

With countless "Rosie the Riveters" entering factories, the Office of Education produced the film "Supervising Women Workers" as part of their "Problems in Supervision" series in 1944. This film was created to help male supervisors manage the different behaviors and beliefs of the woman worker. Through discussions between a factory foreman Joe and the plant manager, the film highlights the major differences between male and female workers and how to properly supervise this new type of worker.

To the modern viewer, "Supervising Women Workers" illuminates the gender roles of the 1940s and the hardships women workers had to overcome to do their patriotic duty.



Document

Problems in Supervision: Supervising Women Workers Master Script
Record Group 306: Records of the United States Information Agency
Broadcast master scripts, 1948-54

Discussion Questions:

  • According to the film, what are some of the specific problem areas of women entering the workforce?
  • According to the film, what type of work are women particularly skilled at doing?
  • What does Joe realize about women after talking with his wife Molly? Why is this important?
  • What does the manual read by the plant supervisor Brooks say about supervising women?
  • In general, how does the film describe women? How does the film describe men? What are the major differences in their behavior on the job?
  • What does this film tell you about gender roles in the mid-20th century? How have these roles changed since this film was created?

Extension Activities

  • Compare and Contrast: Compare and contrast the view of women presented in this film with the popular images of the fictional Rosie the Riveter and the thousands of real life Rosies depicted in popular culture. What are the major similarities and differences between these views of women? What accounts for these differences?
  • Creative Writing: Using this film as a model, rewrite the film from the perspective of the female worker? What issues would they have with their supervisors? Why?
  • Create an Exhibit: After researching the actions of women during World War II, create an exhibit that highlights the work done by Rosies, WAVES, WASPs, WACs and other groups to support the United States's mission.

Standards

  • National History Standards
    • Era 8: The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
      • Standard 3C: The student understands the effects of World War II at home.
  • NY Standards
    • SS1.C.3. Study about the major social, political, economic, cultural, and religious developments in New York State and United States history involves learning about the important roles and contributions of individuals and groups.
    • SS1.C.2. Important ideas, social and cultural values, beliefs, and traditions from New York State and United States history illustrate the connections and interactions of people and events across time and from a variety of perspectives.
  • NJ Standards
    • 6.1.12.D.11.c Explain why women, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and other minority groups often expressed a strong sense of nationalism despite the discrimination they experienced in the military and workforce.

Additional Resources:


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