WWII is a significant event in the shaping of female identity in America. The war created an interesting paradigm in which the dominate gender, ‘the norm’, was removed thus leaving a void in which previously constructed gender roles within society were invalid.
Women across the nation voluntarily mobilised in order to fuel the expanding American government and industry during wartime. More than a million women filled previously ‘male only’ government positions. By 1944 women accounted for more than a third of all civil service jobs.
Although women were only permitted to fill the vacant jobs for the period of national emergency it did improve the credibility and respect of women. Some cases physically embody this advancement of the American female. Mary Ruth Hunter, for example, worked in a plant in Pennsylvania when she was drafted by Army recruiters. Mary worked in the intelligence sector known as G2 in the Pentagon collecting historically relevant material for WWII missions. She worked alongside Professors of History from prestigious East Coast Universities. (Mary remained with the Defence Department until her retirement in 1979).
This case is especially interesting because women simply didn't work alongside men in professional and academic positions but the war forced such an abandonment of societal norms. Women like Mary Hunter went a long way to dispelling the myth of inadequacy that shrouded women in American history.
A contemporary event that has improved the status of women in America is the election of Barack Obama as President and thus his wife, Michelle Obama as First Lady. Obama has been able to project an impressive image of feminine power with her intelligence and grace whilst the eyes of the nation scrutinise her. Also, as the first black First Lady, she has been able to empower black women who have been particularly neglected throughout history. As a lawyer, Obama symbolises professional female success for African American women who have scarce options when it comes to role models outside of entertainment and sport.
The particular significance of Obama comes from her public relationship with her husband, the President. They appear to have a very mutually respectful and equal relationship. A fist bump during a speech may seem insignificant but it puts her on the exact same level as her husband and thus promotes gender equality in front of the entire nation. Furthermore, Obama has been involved in initiatives that strive to tackle childhood obesity and LGBT rights. The impressive activity of Obama as First Lady in an age in which media defines the identity of many groups – including women – has had a positive effect upon the status of women in America.