For much of the 1940s, America was at war. A lot of men were away fighting, so many women did jobs that would normally have been done by men, working in heavy industry, farming, forestry, on the railways and buses etc. About 350,000 women joined the women's services, mostly the Women's Army and the nursing corps. and of course a lot of women were working int he same sort of jobs they were doing before the war, teaching, nursing, secretarial work, in libraries, social work , as telephonists etc.
Generally, women expected to give up work when they married, unless they were very poor and had no choice but to keep working. However, during the war married women who were not working were encouraged to do war work (although the majority did not)
Rationing made the lives of women more complicated, as many kinds of food were restricted, like sugar, coffee, butter, certain types of meat and canned goods as well as things like gasoline, tires and stockings. Unable to find stockings, many women wore leg makeup instead. And since the stockings of the 1940s had seams down the back, women's magazines ran guides on how to draw a realistic-looking line down the calf.
Civilians got stamps every month that gave them the right to buy different products. "My mother and all the neighbors would get together around the dining-room table and they'd be changing a sugar coupon for a bread or a meat coupon. " It was like a giant Monopoly game." said Sheril Cunning, who was a child in Long Beach, California, during the war.
There were private schools, but in general in those days far more young people would have left school to go to work at an earlier age than they would nowadays. Fewer people went to college. Girls who were in school would have studied many of the same subjects they do today, but there would have been more importance given to cookery and sewing, which were regarded as important skills for girls. Relations between teachers and students would have been more formal than they are now.
Dance band music and jazz music was extremely popular, bands led by the likes of Duke Ellington,Louis Armstrong Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Glen Miller etc were very popular. Some popular singers included Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Sheridan, and the Andrews sisters. As many men were overseas, there were even some all-girl bands during the war years. Women would sometimes dance with each other when they went out on account of the shortage of men.
Most people went to the movies at least once a week, there would normally be a main feature, a supporting feature, a newsreel and a cartoon (Mickey Mouse or Tom and Jerry or something like that). Big stars were people like Clark Gable, James Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Bette Davis,Joan Crawford, Humphrey Bogart, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope,and the great glamour girls of the 40s, Heddy Lammar, Veronica Lake, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, and Esther Williams. Teenage musical stars Judy Garland, mIckey rooney and Deanna Durbin were very popular.
At home, people listened to the radio a lot. Radio in those days was more like televison is nowadays, you could listen to music, news, plays, comedy shows (Abbott and Costello were very popular for instance),quiz shows, soap operas, and broadcasts of sporting events. Television did not really become widely popular until the 1950s.
Everyone, men and women, wore a hat when they went out, and manners were generally rather more formal than they are nowadays. A man would always raise his hat when he met a woman for instance, and men would not swear or talk about risque subjects in the presence of women (what they talked about when women were not present was another matter).
The shortage of gasoline would mean that more people walked or used public transport, and a lot of people rode bicycles. People generally got more exercise than they do now just going about their ordinary lives, so there was less of an obsession with 'working out'.
Answered By: Louise C - 4/16/2009