Date of Award

Summer 6-22-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Committee Chair

Dr. Andrew P. Haley

Committee Chair Department

History

Abstract

Life on the home front formed the most ubiquitous American experience during World War II. Americans in the early 1940s found themselves caught in a rapidly evolving world, which wrought changes both great and small on their daily lives. This project explores women’s responses to some of that change. The federal government created wartime agencies to control and direct most elements of daily life from public opinion, to factory production, to employment practices, to family food procurement. The Office of Price Administration was charged with creating a food rationing program to insure steady availability of foodstuffs at home while suppling the allies and military with the surplus. American women encountered this agency most frequently. Therefore, women’s responses to the wartime government and its programs are best seen by examining this relationship.

American women used food as a method of expressing deeply held beliefs and through food worked to preserve their own versions of American culture. The Office of Price Administration struggled to force compliance with food-rationing programs largely due to their inability to understand and exploit women’s sentiments. As a result, black market activities proliferated throughout the war years. Women viewed these occasional illegal purchases and household hoarding as somewhat acceptable and necessary in their quest to guard the cornerstones of American culture. The Office of Price Administration’s refusal to energetically seek out female black marketers and sternly punish those found guilty only helped to create a general tone of acceptance. In short, women cheated food rationing programs because they didn’t fear detection and they saw these actions as serving their greater goal of maintaining the home in the face of the changes created by World War II. Women’s magazines and cookbooks supported these actions in a myriad of articles, menus, and recipes which encouraged women to cook without regards to the limits set by the OPA. Women on the home front forged a path that neither strictly followed government food dictates nor completely ignored rationing. For women the discussion never was about rationing anyway: it was about the home and maintaining stability in a world beset by change.

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