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Project Proposal


I plan to examine the adaptations to gender roles that occurred when husbands left for WWII. In many cases, the story was not solely a Rosie the Riveter type, but a homemaker that adapted with the changes to her marriage, family, and life in general.

Even more specifically, I think that it will be interesting to examine the gender roles and changing family dynamics which had to occur during the war and then the confrontation with or possible reversals of those roles once men returned. (Or perhaps those stories of when the men did not return and those changes to roles and adaptations became a necessity.)

I plan to interview my great-grandmother and my great-aunt. I am also in the process of arranging some alternative or additional female sources in case I need more information or an interviewee cancels. Also, while I am focusing on the stories of women, I do plan to interview my great-uncle. I argue that this interview is valid and could add to my research because I plan on asking questions regarding his return home and the changes he witnessed in his marriage, family, and gender roles in America in general (not the perceptions he has or had of his wife, or the roles of women specifically.) I certainly want to concentrate on the previously marginalized voices and let their stories shine through.

In terms of approach, I consider my project to be a subject-oriented oral history where my topic is broad but I have specific research questions in mind. Also, I believe that since my topic focuses on family dynamics, this oral history project could be considered a family history in some regards. Larson notes that family oral histories can focus on “family dynamics, experiences, and can be studied in groups that are not constituted by one’s relatives”. [1]While the list of interviewees I currently have is comprised of family members, this approach is not limited to strictly relatives and I may be able to add interviewees that are not related, if available. I also plan to follow the advise of Larson through informing my interviewees about the project and mailing detailed information regarding the purpose and process.[2]


o Edna, Great Grandmother – confirmed

o Thelma, Great-Great Aunt – confirmed

o Percy, Great-Great Uncle – confirmed

(I’m working on adding and confirming additional options)

Questions about topic:


- How do these women see their experiences as homemakers and wives/mothers? Do they see their sacrifice? I want to place their stories in the larger context of American women.

- In what ways did WWII change family dynamics and marriage roles? Were there any changes that we easily reversible when the husband returned? Anything permanent?

- How did women cope or seek to adapt as mothers and homemakers? How did they view those who were Rosie the Riveters? What ways did they attempt to normalize or continue their lives and the family life?

- Was this seen as a liberating time for those who stayed at home?

- Did they perceive changes in other wives and families? At what ease or difficulty did they integrate themselves back into married and family life with the husband?

- Did WWII experiences impact their lives? Did it play a role in independence (or do they not see themselves as that)? What do they think about this time and the creation of the modern family?

- What was their experience within the context of a relatively small and rural town? Place this in context with other experiences of women throughout the nation.

- Did this time and experience bond women with other women?


Given that the interviewees will transfer rights to me through donation, I hope to deposit the oral histories in local historical societies. They have all lived in the roughly the same area all of their lives and I think it could help construct local histories. Also, I hope for this to serve as a way to preserve a family history that is virtually undocumented- this is very important given the fact that these are the oldest living generation of our family.

Working/Preliminary Bibliography:

–On content—


Anderson, Karen. Wartime Women: Sex Roles, Family Relations, and the Status of Women during World War II. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1981.

Campbell, D’Ann. Women at War with America: Private Lives in a Patriotic Era. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Hartmann, Susan M. The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982.

Hoopes, Roy. Americans Remember the Home Front: An Oral Narrative of World War II Years in American. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2002.

Parker, Pauline E. Women of the Home Front: World War II Recollections of 55 Americans. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company Inc., 2002.

Tuttle, William M. Jr. Daddy’s Gone to War: Second World War in the Lives of American Children. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Weatherford, Doris. History of Women in America: American Women and World War II. New York: Facts on File Inc., 1990.

Yellin, Emily. Our Mother’s War: American Women at Home and the Front during World War II. New York: Free Press, 2004.

–On Oral history practice and methodology–

Baum, Willa. Transcribing and Editing Oral History. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 1991.

Charleton, Thomas L., Lois E. Myers, and Rebecca Sharpless, eds.  History of Oral History:  Foundations and Methods.  New York:  AltaMira Press, 2007.

Neuenschwander, John. A Guide to Oral History and the Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Ritchie, Donald. Doing Oral History. 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

[1] Mary A. Larson, “Research Designs and Strategies”, 96 &101.

[2] Ibid., 113.