Photograph from the Green ‘N’ Growing Collection (The History of Home Demonstration and 4-H Youth Development in North Carolina), Special Collections, North Carolina State University Libraries.

War always brings changes to peoples’ lives. It is often easy to see how the soldiers and civilians in war zones are affected, but how it is interesting to see how life changes for people not directly involved in war. World War II was the largest war in history, affecting people of all ages, religions, and nationalities. I became interested in learning more about WWII as a child reading about Molly in the American Girl series. Learning about the role that American children played in the war was very inspiring.

During the war, many fathers and older brothers went overseas with the military. This left the United States with a shortage of workers, until women joined the workforce. With many mothers, fathers, and brothers contributing to the war effort, girls were at home finding their own ways to help the cause. News of the war was everywhere – newsreels played in the movie theater before the show, posters and other propaganda was everywhere, radio broadcasted the latest headlines. All of the news of the war was a call to action for girls.

Girls helped with the war effort in seemingly small ways. They planted victory gardens, took up collections of metal, and went without new bicycles. However, all of these endeavors added up in a big way. Victory gardens grown by Girl Scouts and others provided nutritious meals for families when food rationing was put in place. Collecting scrap metal meant providing materials for new equipment such as tanks and planes. Going without luxury items such as new bicycles saved metal and rubber for use by the armed forces as well. Many young girls formed clubs such as a knitting group to make clothes and blankets for soldiers or to prepare bandages to be sent overseas. All of these projects could be easily done by children and made a real difference in the war.

Of course, there were more difficult aspects of the war for young girls in the U.S. Over 400,000 members of the American Armed Forces were killed during the war. This meant thousands of fathers and brothers who never made it back home to the little girls in their lives. Perhaps it was the hope that they could help bring their loved ones home safely that drove girls to become a crucial part of the war effort on the home front.

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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