Transformation and change are an integral component of the society, which has led to progress and development in various spheres of life. Through change, positive factors such as equality, improved technology, and a more accountable political system have been introduced to the members of the society or community. The 1940s and the 1950s are one of the most remarkable periods of American history due to the various transformations, which were involved. Women and persons hailing from the minority races experienced monumental changes during this time mainly concerning their freedom and liberation. All the aforementioned concerns, and more, are explored in Sucheng Chan and Spencer Olin’s Major Problems in California History.
The Second World War involved the massive deployment of men to the various battlefields through government directives. According to Chan & Olin (456), this was executed in a progressive manner with more men being deployed as the war advanced. The two authors express their value for credibility by substantiating every claim that is made in their publication. The authors are stating that the requirement for weapons had increased as the war progressed, for instance, supports the need for more workers in American firms. This had necessitated the conversion of conventional American companies into war weapon manufacturing firms. Auto making companies were sanctioned to start the production of warplanes, among other items of war. New factories were also built as the United States of America (USA) sought to develop and beef up its strength in the Second World War. The authors conclude this part of the book by stating that the massive industrial development coupled with the colossal deployment of men to the battlefield caused an unprecedented need for workers in the various firms and industries (Chan & Olin 458).
Company managers and executives called up women of America to take up the various job positions, which had been left by the men who went to the battlefield and the ones that had been created by the massive industrial development surge. The Second World War period was not the first time that women had worked in the various industries and companies (Chan & Olin 496). By providing this background information, the authors of Major Problems in California History are able to express their value for research into historical matters. American women had always worked albeit in lesser numbers than what was reported during and after World War II. About 80% of the working women were from the minority races and lower social class because the middle-class white women were confined to their homes as they fulfilled their domestic obligations and roles (Chan & Olin 499). The high unemployment, which characterized the Depression era also discouraged the hiring of women in the factories as any woman taking up the positions was deemed to be inconveniencing the unemployed men.
These ideas were tested during the start of World War II as it sought to increase the worker population in the various American companies and firms. Through a detailed and vivid narration, Chan & Olin (500) explain the role of the government in the changing roles of women in America during the 1940s and the 1950s. In the nascent stages of the war, the government was not impressed by the women’s response to recruitment in the various industries. The American government provided a remedy to this problem by launching a propaganda campaign aimed at luring women to work (Chan & Olin, 501). Efforts by the government promoted “Rosie the Riveter” as the ideal woman worker of the 19th century. Rosie was presented as a pretty, efficient, loyal, and patriotic worker whom all women should emulate and follow.
The propaganda was spread through social conversations and a song with one of the most remarkable renditions being 1942’s Rosie the Riveter, praising the endeavors and activities of a working woman (Chan & Olin 502). Gradually, the women heeded calls to serve in the American industries resulting into a high female population in workplaces across America. Increased propaganda campaigns by the government, communicated through the mass media ensured that women stayed in their positions and proceeded to seek higher positions and posts. The role of the woman in the American society was therefore transformed progressively from the previous domestic constraints to the more liberal professional dimension.
As far as the minority races are concerned, Chan & Olin (503) reported that World War II posed a good opportunity for many of the people to escape the abject poverty that had characterized their life in America. In a detailed manner, the authors state that persons from the minority races were able to move to other countries while earning a salary to cover their needs and expenses. African-Americans joined the army in huge numbers escaping from the distress that had been caused by the Depression era and the farming perils experienced in the Mid-West and Southern areas of the country (Chan & Olin 503). Just like every other sphere or quarter of the American society, the army too was segregated. The armed forces accepted enrollments from persons hailing from the minority races but proceeded to assign them white commanders and supervisors, expressing distrust in them.
The book also draws credibility from its systematic explanation of the racial discrimination, which was characteristic of the American armed forces in the 1940s and 1950s. Air Corps black fighter wing for instance was made up predominantly of African-American army men who were forced to train in a different section away from their white counterparts (Chan & Olin 504). Additionally, they were accommodated in a distinct part of the camps, underlining the racial discrimination and segregation, which was rife during this period. The Navy unit of the American armed forces gave enlistees of African-American descent menial tasks or jobs in the ships. These assignments included cleaning ships and serving the predominantly white members of the Navy. The Marines on the other hand did not accept the enrollment of minority races in their forces but this was changed as the war progressed. In spite of the segregation that existed in the barracks, the army men always united in times of war to fight the common enemy (Chan & Olin, 515).
In summary, Major Problems in California History is a credible and apt source of information on the changing roles of Californian women during and after the Second World War. Basing their narrations on thorough research and study activities, the authors have been able to offer trustworthy information concerning California in the 1940s and 1950s. The systematic representation of information also makes it easy for the reader to follow the proceedings and activities easily.
Chan, Sucheng., & Olin, Spencer. (1996). Major Problems in California History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Print
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