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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Introduces Bill to Memorialize Women During World War II

Nov 13, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced the Women Who Worked on the Home Front World War II Memorial Act today, commemorating the efforts of the 18 million American women who kept the home front running during World War II.  Women are dramatically underrepresented in our memorials.  A 17-year-old District of Columbia resident, Raya Kenney, the founder of the non-profit Women Who Worked on the Home Front Foundation, brought the idea to Norton to honor the women on the home front who supported the World War II effort.  This bill would authorize the Women Who Worked on the Home Front Foundation to establish the memorial to honor these women.  The memorial is designed to be interactive and to educate visitors on the important roles women played during World War II.

In her introductory statement, Norton writes: “Women have largely been ignored in the memorials on federal land in the nation’s capital, even though they played a key role in World War II.  Millions of American women took jobs to support their families and the country at large during World War II, redefining what ‘women’s work’ looks like.  In light of these contributions, it is important that women who worked on the home front be properly recognized in the nation’s capital.”

The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Jim Banks (R-IN), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Andre Carson (D-IN), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Darren Soto (D-FL), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Susan Wild (D-PA).

Norton’s full introductory statement is below.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the Women Who Worked on the Home Front World War II Memorial Act

November 13, 2019

Today, I introduce the Women Who Worked on the Home Front World War II Memorial Act, which would authorize the establishment of a memorial on federal land in the District of Columbia commemorating the efforts of the 18 million American women who kept the home front running during World War II.   Women are dramatically underrepresented in our memorials. 

A 17-year-old constituent, Raya Kenney, the founder of the non-profit Women Who Worked on the Home Front Foundation, came up with the idea to honor the women on the home front who supported the World War II effort.   Raya wondered why the women on the home front, whose efforts were so instrumental in maintaining the stability of the country during World War II, have not received much recognition for their contributions, compared to the men who fought bravely in World War II.  This bill would authorize the Women Who Worked on the Home Front Foundation to establish the memorial to honor these women.  The memorial is designed to be interactive and to educate visitors on the important roles women played during World War II.

Between 1940 and 1945, the percentage of women in the workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent, and by 1945 one in four married women worked outside of the home.  The work done by women on the home front opened doors for women in the workplace generally and had a profound effect on the job market going forward.  As a result of their efforts, women on the home front redefined many occupations that were previously considered “men’s work.”

Just as women were working on the home front, many played critical roles in support of the war effort.  More than 10,000 women served behind the scenes of World War II as codebreakers.  Due to the classified nature of their work, they did not receive recognition for their tireless efforts until recently.  Women were also trained to fly military aircraft so male pilots could leave for combat duty overseas.  More than 1,100 female civilian volunteers flew nearly every type of military aircraft as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program.  WASP flew planes from factories to bases, transported cargo and participated in simulation strafing and target missions.  These women were not given full military status until 1977, and it was not until 2010 that they were recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Women have largely been ignored in the memorials on federal land in the nation’s capital, even though they played a key role in World War II.  Millions of American women took jobs to support their families and the country at large during World War II, redefining what “women’s work” looks like.  In light of these contributions, it is important that women who worked on the home front be properly recognized in the nation’s capital.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

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