“Doing Their Bit”: The USO in New Jersey During World War II

Patricia Chappine


The participation of NJ women during World War II encompassed a wide array of new challenges and responsibilities. Not only were women moving into newly opened employment opportunities, but they also joined military branches, worked for the defense industry, and even played professional baseball. However, paid positions were only part of the story. Volunteerism was a significant, even integral part of the war effort, both on the home front and abroad. For women who volunteered as hostesses, the USO upheld feminine ideals of emotional labor and caregiving, emphasizing the activities that prepared young women to be wives and mothers.  The ideological safety of USO work during WWII has served as a barrier to comprehensive academic consideration of their contributions on a national, regional, and local level. Demographic variations of USO clubs have yet to be analyzed comprehensively on a state-by-state basis. Research on NJ’s USO groups forms a unique narrative of women’s volunteerism and civic engagement, which upheld social constructs of femininity while impacting the war effort, especially the morale of the military, significantly.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14713/njs.v7i1.244


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