NWHM Partners In Winning The War Lesson Plan

Content Area/Online Exhibit: Partners in Winning the War: American Women in WWII

Grade Level: Secondary Grades

Lesson Prepared By: Jessie Regunberg





In this lesson, students will be given an opportunity to explore the changing image of women during WWII by learning how to analyze and evaluate propaganda/advertisements.



One class period.




  • Students will practice their interpretive and analytical skills as they learn how to deconstruct a piece of propaganda.
  • Students will gain a deeper understanding of life during WWII, what it means for a country to be at war, and how war affects every aspect of society.
  • Students will see the ways in which society shapes our understanding of gender and will be able to recognize the changing images of femininity.
  • Students will learn about the important contributions women made to the war effort.



  • Students should have an idea of what propaganda is.
    Definition from dictionary.com:
    1.  information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
    2.  the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
    3.  the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement




  • Computer Lab…access to Partners in Winning the War
    If a computer lab is not available, the teachers can print the Online Exhibit.  Please note that the Online Exhibit is very long -- double sided copying is encouraged.
  • Color printouts of propaganda posters from the Online Exhibit, Partners in Winning the War. [Available for download here].
  • Handout on reading and analyzing propaganda. [Available for download here].



Introduce the subject.  Depending on your class, you may want to give a bit of background on WWII.

  • Talking Point:
    World War II was an important turning point in American women’s history.  While most women have always worked, World War II was different because women were recruited to work – and especially recruited for blue-collar jobs traditionally held by men.    

     Both business and government consciously changed the image of the feminine ideal through advertising.   This lesson plan focuses on posters of beautiful women serving their country in the military, as  military nurses, and in factories, where women  achieved completely new things. 

    Each group will receive a piece of this propaganda.  Spend some time in your group talking about the image.  Analyze its features.  Make sure to refer to the handout on how to read and analyze propaganda.  You may even want to jot down your ideas on the handout below each question.  When we come back together, each group will have a turn to present to the class what they found and we will have a discussion.

  • Split the class into groups of four or five, depending on the size of your class and the time you have.  Pass out the color copies of the propaganda posters.  In the small groups, have the students brainstorm about their image using the handout on reading and analyzing propaganda.  Depending on your class, you may want to lead the whole group through an example exercise together so that they can get a feel for the assignment.  After each group has had sufficient time to discuss their poster (15-20 minutes) bring the class back together and lead a discussion about propaganda and the changing image of women during the 1940s.

    For homework, urge your students to visit Partners in Winning the War, the Online Exhibit here to gain a deeper understanding of women’s contributions to WWII.

Wrap up:
The propaganda you looked at today proved effective during the war.  Between 1940 and 1945, the female labor force grew to 19 million, more than a third of the American civilian labor force. After the war, many women lost their jobs in the factories to men returning from the war, but World War II brought significant and lasting changes. It became socially acceptable for married women to work. Millions of women migrated to cities and moved across the country for new jobs.  They wore pants and dropped traditional hats and gloves.  After the war, people expected a return to “normalcy,” but instead of “Rosie the Riveter,” women returned to the workplace as “Patsy the Pink-Collar Worker.”  As the economy moved from manufacturing to service industries, women ended up with greater employment prospects than men.








I-d Culture: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity, so that the learner can compare and analyze societal patterns for preserving and transmitting culture while adapting to environmental or social change.


II-b Time, Continuity and Change: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ways human beings view themselves in and over time, so that the learner can identify and use key concepts such as chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity.


IV-e Individual Development and Identity: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of individual development and identity, so that the learner can examine the interactions of ethnic, national, or cultural influences in specific situations or events


V-f Individuals, Groups and Institutions: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions, so that the learner can identify and analyze examples of tensions between expressions of individuality and group or institutional efforts to promote social conformity


IX-g Global Connections: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of global connections and interdependence, so that the learner can describe and evaluate the role of international and multinational organizations in the global arena.





5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.


7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, as well as posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.


12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).