How did the economic and social impact of World War II alter American society between 1939 and 1965 with regard to:

women’s status
middle class lifestyle




...When the defense program began and billions of the taxpayers' money were appropriated for guns, ships, tanks, and bombs, Negroes presented themselves for work only to be given the cold shoulder. North as well as South, and despite their qualifications, Negroes were denied skilled employment. Not until their wrath and indignation took the form of a proposed protest march on Washington, scheduled for July 1, 1941, did things begin to move in the form of defense jobs for Negroes.

Source:  A. Philip Randolph States Black Goals, 1942.




In recent years an average of about 1,200,000 Americans moved to the suburbs every year. Suburbia's population, by Fortune's count, numbered about 30 million in 1953 and has grown by about one-half since 1947....

What is more, Suburbia is the exemplification of the new and growing moneyed middle class, which Fortune described as a market that seems bound, sooner or later, to become the American market....

The middle-class Suburbia, rapidly growing larger and more affluent, is developing a way of life that seems eventually bound to become dominant in America....

Source:  Fortune Magazine, 1955.




            I do know one thing, this place was very segregated when I first come here. Oh, Los Angeles, you just couldn't go and sit down like you do now. You had certain places you went. You had to more or less stick to the restaurants and hotels where black people were. It wasn't until the war that it really opened up. 'Cause when I come out here it was awful, just like bein' in the South....

             The war helped some people because they come back, they took trades, learned to do things. My brother come back and now he is very successful. I think the army really made a man out of him. He works at Rockwell in the missile department and he's a supervisor. He wouldn't have known what to do if he hadn't gone in the army....

             They didn't mix the white and black in the war. But now it gives you a kind of independence because they felt that we gone off and fought, we should be equal. Everything started openin' up for us. We got a chance to go places we had never been able to go before....

Source:  Opportunities for Women and Blacks, ca. 1942-1945.




U.S. Statutes at Large (78th Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 284-301)


To provide Federal Government aid for the readjustment in civilian life of returning World War II veterans. 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the ''Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944''.


1. Any person who served in the active military or naval service on or after September 16, 1940, and prior to the termination of the present war,... shall be eligible for and entitled to receive education or training under this part....


Chapter V-General Provisions for Loans

Purchase or Construction of Homes  

Sec. 501. (a) Any application made by a veteran under this title for the guaranty of a loan to be used in purchasing residential property or in constructing a dwelling on unimproved property owned by him to be occupied as his home may be approved by the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs ....

Source:  GI Bill of Rights, 1944.




             There was one good thing came out of it. I had friends whose mothers went to work in factories. For the first time in their lives, they worked outside the home. They realized that they were capable of doing something more than cook a meal....

             But even here we were sold a bill of goods. They were hammering away that the woman who went to work did it temporarily to help her man, and when he came back, he took her job and she cheerfully leaped back to the home....

             I think a lot of women said, S---w that noise. 'Cause they had a taste of freedom, they had a taste of making their own money, a taste of spending their own money, making their own decisions. I think the beginning of the women's movement had its seeds right there in World War Two....

Source:  Dellie Hahne Recalls the War's Impact on Women's Attitudes, ca. 1945.




            It seems to me, it seems to me, that the Democratic party needs to make definite pledges of the kinds suggested in the minority report to maintain the trust and the confidence placed in it by the people of all races and all sections of this country.... 

            To those who say, to those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states' rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of state's rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!... 

            ...I know that we can--I know that we shall--begin here the fuller and richer realization of that hope--that promise of a land where all men are truly free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely and well.....

Source:  Hubert Humphrey, Speech on the Civil Right Plank, July 14, 1948.











DBQ Question created by:

Mr. Gordon Price Utz, Jr.
Stratford Senior High School
Houston, TX