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During World War II, military manpower needs were greater than ever before in American history. Sixteen million men were inducted in the armed forces. At the same time, the need for factory labor was also sharper than ever before. There was a critical, life-and-death need for trucks, tanks, airplanes, ships, guns, bombs, ammunition, and so on. Women stepped into the breach. They welded, they riveted, they glued nose cones for bombers, they flew aircraft from the factory to the front lines.
Women provided a crucial margin of productivity: the Germans and Japanese did not mobilize women into their factories and produced much less war equipment as a result. An interesting aspect of American women working during World War II was the appearance of women with different characteristics. These new female workers were older and more likely to be married. This was an important episode in the century-long shift from the common view in 1900 that married women should not be in the paid labor force to the common view that they should be.