In 1939 America was just emerging from the Great Depression, a global economic slump that had severly reduced the productivity of America's industrial base. Producing the enormous quantities of airplanes, tanks, and warships that would be required for the war effort meant that war industries had to be radically expanded in a relatively short time period. Just when tens of thousands of men were being conscripted into the armed services, the nation went from not enough jobs to not enough workers.
Recruiting women to work in war industries became a high priority. During the Depression and before the war, most people were against women working outside the home because it was seen as taking jobs from unemployed men. The government had to convince women that working outside the home was necessary. Women began to be hired as welders, electricians and riveters in defense plants. Until that time, such positions had been for men only.
The decrease of men in the work force also led to an increase in the number of women holding non-war-related factory jobs. By the mid-1940s, the percentage of women in the American work force had expanded from 25 percent to 36 percent.