About Respect

Respect Study Guide

Table of Contents:

Background | Social Conditions During the Decades | Discussion Questions | Worksheets & Activities
References | Appendices

Social Conditions During the Decades

1900-1920 | 1929-1939 | 1940-1949 | 1950-mid-60s | 1961-1970 | 1970-early 80s | Mid-80s to present & Summary

1940-1949

Rosie the RiviterWhen World War II started, men went off to war and millions of women entered the workforce, many of them replacing men in factories. Betty Murphy, who worked in the Douglas Aircraft plant in Los Angeles, became the model for Rosie the Riveter, an icon which has inspired more than one generation of women. Before the war, Murphy was a waitress earning very little and was making a lot more in the factory.

Women had to keep the country running and go home and take care of their families. A new sense of freedom and independence developed. Mainstream music reflected this, with many songs about the war, but also some with less of the previous co-dependence. One of these newer songs was Blues in the Night, which talked about men being “two-faced,” "who’ll leave you singing the Blues."

The war ended in 1945 and six million women lost their jobs that year. Men were back and needed work. Top songs during that year included one about women being cute (Personality), where work competence is irrelevant. One of the most popular movies (Mildred Pierce) was about a successful career woman who has lousy marriages and a troubled daughter.

Next decade 1950-mid-60s
Previous Decade 1929-1939