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The Role of Women in World War II: An Analysis of Clare Boothe Luce’s Political Address

The Role of Women in World War II: An Analysis of Clare Boothe Luce’s Political Address 

Link to Clare Boothe Luce’s Speech: https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2018/02/22/the-role-of-american-women-in-wartime-sept-241942/


Following Hitler’s surprise invasion of Poland, the United States entered into World War II, hoping to fight for the ideals of democracy and put an end to fascist regimes. From a domestic standpoint, the war brought significant changes in terms of the role of women in American life. As men left to fight overseas, women replaced much of the workforce and became more active members of society. Cultural figures, including Rosie the Riveter, inspired women to work hard and leave their traditional roles as housewives to gain more of a foothold in the changing demographics of the country. On September 24, 1942, Clare Boothe Luce, a Congresswoman serving her term during World War II, delivered an address to a group of women a part of a banking committee, explaining the importance of “toughness” during wartime. Clare Boothe Luce strategically employs the repetition of the word “glamour,” allusions to political figures, and visual symbolism as a method to express the dire need for women to make sacrifices throughout the duration of World War II.


Clare Boothe Luce utilizes the repetition of the word “glamour” and allusions to political figures in her speech to convey the importance of women leaving their traditional roles as mothers to join the war effort. For instance, Clare Boothe Luce relates a woman’s “glamour” to the war effort by stating, “From here on into victory, glamour is out, and toughness is in” (Lines 28-29). The purposeful repetition of the word “glamour” holds much significance in that it helps to portray the message that women need to forget about the luxuries of life and work harder in order to achieve victory overseas. In this sense, Luce’s firm tone encourages the audience of female bankers to recognize the importance of contributing to the war effort in any way possible, even if it requires some sacrifices of their own. In addition, Luce alludes to political figures such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the current president at the time, as a mechanism to emphasize the fact that women need to focus their energy on contributing to the war effort and take control of the situation. Luce equates the idea of “toughness” to the war when stating, “Our president has called this the ‘toughest war in history’ and whether you here tonight class yourself as a political follower of the president or one of his political opponents, you must accept that definition as completely accurate” (Lines 33-37). Luce strategically alludes to the president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to gain the trust of her audience and convince them of the value of serving the country. As president, Roosevelt holds much prestige in his opinions; therefore, by using this reference, Luce is able to demonstrate how war requires collective effort and “toughness.” Even though some might disagree with Roosevelt’s policies, Luce acknowledges this factor and reassures her audience. The repetition of the word “glamour” and the use of Roosevelt’s viewpoint regarding the war assist the speaker in conveying a powerful and inspirational message to her audience.


Clare Boothe Luce employs visual symbolism to represent the obstacles that women need to overcome in order to fight a “hard war” (Line 68). For instance, when explaining the barriers to potential victory, Luce explains how “It is going to be full of ruts and rocks, the ruts of endless, colorless eddoes, and the rocks of almost insurmountable obstacles” (Lines 63-65). In this scenario, the ruts and rocks symbolize the challenges that women have to conquer. Furthermore, the choice of words such as “colorless” and “insurmountable” paints the picture that nothing during the war will be easy or given to women. Over the course of World War II, women served as nurses overseas and created products for war soldiers. Women faced the important responsibility of helping the country in a time of international crisis regardless of the sacrifices needed to be made. By using visual symbolism to help her audience of women recognize the reality of the war effort, she enables them to realize that the times ahead will pose a major challenge for many. Additionally, the speaker utilizes visual imagery when describing the word “glamour.” For example, Luce says, “We still have lipsticks, and even some silk stockings” (Lines 4-5). By referring to items typically seen as “feminine,” such as lipstick and stockings, the speaker symbolically introduces the concept of “glamour,” which she goes on to refute in the remainder of the speech. Ultimately, visual imagery assists in strengthening Luce’s argument, allowing her audience to understand the harsh realities of the near future.


Clare Boothe Luce engages with her female audience, convincing them to participate directly and play an active role during the rest of the war. Through the purposeful utilization of certain words, allusions, and visual symbolism, the speaker explains the necessity of women stepping out of their comfort zones to demonstrate their commitment to the war effort. Although World War II brought political and social unrest in American society, changes in the role of women in the industrial workforce later sparked impactful movements in the 1960s that sought to level the gender divide.


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