A new biographical essay about photographer Ann Rosener (1914-2012) sheds light on her wartime work as she focused on the contributions of women workers and other aspects of the World War II home front.
In the early 1940s Rosener documented preparations for war and home front activities for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) by contributing some 800 photographs to the FSA/OWI (Office of War Information) Collection. Her work fell into three broad categories: 1) women working outside the home; 2) women practicing home economics in their own homes and providing health and nutrition services; and, 3) people overcoming social barriers to work together for the good of the country.
One theme showed women and others filling essential jobs formerly reserved for able-bodied men, many who were off serving in the armed forces. Rosener showed women learning aviation science from a nun; former actresses producing aircraft motors; former professional baseball players building ships; and people crippled by polio manufacturing small machine parts.
A second theme instructed women in “making do” on the homefront so that more resources could be allocated to the war. They were instructed in “conservation of durable goods”–vacuuming refrigerator coils and defrosting freezers regularly to reduce electricity use, remaking worn out adult clothing to fit children, walking rather than driving to run errands, and salvaging cooking grease to sell for bomb production.
A third topic, “Americans All,” illustrated news stories promoting the idea that citizens, “with no thought of differences of race or creed,” were making contributions essential to the war effort. The FSA had promoted the concept that with patriotic unanimity, Americans would be able to overcome political, racial, religious and ethnic boundaries to confront economic hardship. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt phrased it they could come together to form “an arsenal of democracy” to win the international war.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we appreciate anew the many ways in which Rosener and the women she photographed assumed new roles in support of a nation at war.
- Get to know Rosener even better in photograph curator Beverly Brannan’s biographical essay about Ann Rosener, one of a series on groundbreaking women photojournalists.
- See more photographs by Ann Rosener in the FSA/OWI Collection via the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.
- View our “Rosie Pictures” reference aid, which offers a selection of pictures of women working in World War II, as well as tips for finding additional materials.
- View the Women’s History Month Web site, which highlights resources and events.