What problems did Hispanics, Native Americans and women face in 1945 and how far had these been overcome by 1968 World War Two has often been described as a turning point in the battle for equality between men and women. From the beginning, women were always struggling to gain status, respect, and rights in their society. Prior to World War Two, a woman’s role in society was seen as someone who cooked, cleaned, and gave birth. The years during and following the war marked a turning point in the battle for equality.
Women, for once, were being seen as individuals with capabilities outside the kitchen, and we’re for the first time given a chance to prove themselves. On December 7, 1942, Pearl Harbour was bombed and FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt) declared war. This marked the entry of the US into World War Two, a war which has been going on in Europe for almost 2 years prior. The start of World War II opened a new chapter in the lives of women living in America. From coast to coast, husbands, fathers, sons and brothers were shipped out to fight in Europe.
With the entry of the US and the absence of large quantities of men, the demand for supplies increased, and women were called out of the kitchen and into the workforce. Posters, banners, and jingles were all aspects that helped encourage women’s entrance into the workforce. Millions marched into factories, offices, and military bases. The demand for labour was so great, that a poll taken that year showed that only 13% of the population opposed females entering the workforce. Women’s occupations varied from war nurses and cooking for the army, to making bombs and making weapons.
The returning veterans were all unemployed and in need of work. The government’s solution to the problem was to force women out of their jobs in order to make room for the men. The same as they were encouraged into the labour force, they were encouraged out of it. Posters, movies, and articles were posted to help push females to leave their jobs and return to their homes. Despite the pressure, women were not so quick to return to the kitchen. They were for the first time, given freedom, and allowed a chance. Women across the nation were less than willing to give it back and return to their old way of life.
Women began questioning the role they played in society, and began demanding equal opportunities. The 1960s was a major period of gaining equality for women. Various acts were passed in order to help the woman’s cause. Through various struggles and battles, the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, which prohibited wage discrimination based on one’s sex. In addition, the Civil Rights Act was passed the following year, which further extended the laws prohibiting one’s occupation due to sex, by also prohibiting wage discrimination, job classification, promotion, and training.
Women’s battle for equality also existed outside the workforce. During the late 1960s, women fought for equal rights anyway they knew how. They wanted to end discrimination not only at work, but at home, and in every part of their society. To accomplish this, women began to take place in marches and spoke out against inequality. Individual women worked hard to achieve their goal. Esther Peterson, director of the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, with the help of President John F. Kennedy, helped approve the Equal Rights Amendment.
Also, other activities helped the fight for equality. Betty Friedan, the first President of NOW (National Organisation for Women), became one of the most influential activists of her time. She led a highly publicized campaign in order to pass an amendment to guarantee equal rights for both men and women. In addition, Friedan was the author of The Feminine Mystique, a book that spoke of the idea that women could find happiness outside their homes, and within their careers. By the 1970s, women achieved some victories, but the fight was far from over.
Today, almost 64 million women, almost 16 and over, and about 46% of the workforce is composed of women. Hispanics came home from World War II to a different struggle. A Medal of Honour for bravery didn’t guarantee service in certain restaurants and a soldier’s body in a coffin with an American flag for his widow didn’t merit admission to some funeral homes. Hispanics weren’t segregated in the service, as African Americans were. The Hispanics earned 13 of the 301 medals of honour awarded. But still Hispanics did face discrimination.
Back home in Texas, two of those medal recipients were denied service in restaurants. Returning veterans also found public swimming pools, schools and housing segregated in some communities, especially in the Southwest and California. They did not face as harsh a living as African Americans but still fought substantial racism. Fast-forward to 1965, since the end of the war Hispanic children fail to gain as good an education as your average white boy, many grew up in extreme poverty with parents working in the Californian farming industry.
The California farming business was worth over $4 billion at the time. Hispanics working in this field were only able to work around 134 day every year during the harvest period and when they weren’t working they weren’t getting paid. They gained a false reputation for being lazy from white Californians, when the actually worked very hard making the best out of what they had. The problem was farming unions had no legal protection at the time and so their fight against injustice was at a standstill.
The National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) was formed in 1962 by Cesar Chavez, this union became very popular and it organise ‘La Huelga;’ this was a mass walk out from the farms that involved 10000 Hispanics. Unfortunately it took 5 years (1970) to achieve anything, but it was a start. Some 44,000 Native Americans served in the United States military during World War II. American Indian veterans encountered varying degrees of success in re-entering civilian life after World War II. Some returned to the reservation, where economic opportunities were bleak. World War II changed both the Indians and the reservation.
Following the war, veterans returned unwilling to accept the secondary status assigned to them by the larger society. They faced discrimination in housing, employment, education, land rights, water rights, and voting. In many states, it was illegal for Indians to purchase or consume alcohol. Yet many of the veterans had found that while in the military they were able to purchase and consume alcohol with no legal difficulties both on the bases and while on furlough in foreign countries. Many returned home wanting this same freedom as civilians in the United States.
Veterans received readjustment checks of $20 a week for 52 weeks while unemployed, and were eligible for G. I. Bill benefits, including free high school and college education, and low-cost mortgages. Veterans moved to cities; the Indian population in urban centers more than doubled (from 24,000 to 56,000) from 1941 to 1950. Some veterans, like Abel in the novel House Made of Dawn, moved to California cities only to experience little success there. More than three thousand Indians each lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles after the war; fewer than five hundred, or a sixth of them, were able to find steady jobs.
Tellingly, the median income for urban male Indians was $1,198 a year, in contrast to $3,780 for the white male population. Native Americans joined the United States’ call to fight Communism and participated in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Between 10,000 to 15,000 Native Americans served in the Korean War, while approximately 14,500 Native Americans served in the Vietnam War. Once again Native Americans returned from these wars to find discrimination with regards to finding a job and trying to earn a fair wage.
In conclusion both Women, Hispanics and Native Americans had made strides towards overcoming their post-war problems by 1968, but some were more successful than others. Women were more common place in the work place by 1968 but nothing like today, they still faced discrimination with regards to wages and opportunity’s. Even though they were helped by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banning discrimination in the work place, there were loopholes and statistically you were still more likely to get a job if you were male. An act to guarantee equal rights for women was not passed until 1972, it was called ‘The Equal Rights Amendment. The Feminine Mystique is a nonfiction book by Betty Friedan first published in 1963. It is widely credited with sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States. This phenomenally popular book may have been the inspiration for Women all over America to leave their kitchen and become more independent. Hispanics and Native Americans were helped massively with the civil Rights Act of 1964 which ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public.
Unfortunately there was still a learned racist attitude towards ethnic groups in America, however it cannot be measured how many years this attitude took to wear off. In 1968 we saw America learning its newer more modern stance on different ethnicities and women which we can see today. This was Mainly due to the approval of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 witch was probably the most important act passed in American history with regard to equality.