Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1995


Published in Great Plains Research 5:2 (Fall 1995). Copyright © 1995 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


World War II accelerated the movement of rural and small town Iowa women into manufacturing industry. Scholars have debated the significance of World War II for gender relations, but the recent consensus is that only focused studies of particular localities can address the complexity of the changes effected by the War. This study looks at Iowa women in meatpacking plants. Assessing the economic background, their prior efforts to enter packing plants, and the resistance they met in the plants makes their limited gains understandable. Women of rural and small town wage earning households had always been workers, usually in the informal sector; and their World War II experience was a continuation of this pattern in a formal job setting. While the women did not consistently press for gender equality as workers, they achieved more security and higher incomes than they had had previously.