In the United States, the scale and scope of World War II resulted in significant labor shortages. In response, the government mobilized American women for traditionally male-dominated occupations, freeing men to fight overseas. By 1943, the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard had each established a women’s reserve. Over 250,000 women would serve in these newly created groups. Only the Army Air Force did not officially accept women; female Air Force pilots were considered civilians.
The decision to enlist women in the U.S. military represented a significant cultural shift, and the military struggled to define women’s roles in a male-dominated field. The women featured in recruiting posters like this one convey femininity and strength, a delicate balance expected of these women. Recruiting posters inevitably depicted white women, mirroring the discriminatory attitudes of the military. Only the Women's Army Corps admitted black women from the start, and they were assigned to segregated units. The Navy and Coast Guard eventually opened their doors to black women. Neither the Marines nor the Army Air Force allowed black women to enlist during World War II.