1945-46: The end of WW2, a downward turning point?
1945-6 marked a pivot-point for many Berkeley women. When WWII ended and demobilization began, women who had been invited during the war into previously all-male fields and positions were expected to step aside and make room for the returning servicemen. It was a common pattern, most often associated with female industrial workers, symbolized by Rosie the Riveter, a figure designed to recruit women into wartime manufacturing with the slogan “We can do it!” The expansion and then contraction of women’s horizons occurred in academic life as well, and these articles will explore both the new roles Berkeley’s women played in the war years and their postwar reorientation. Rather than simply recording gains and losses, however, the essays will also consider how the links between the war years and their aftermath reframed women’s expectations and common views of their capabilities.
Because the university was a center of wartime research and training, Berkeley’s women played a variety of roles in the national war effort and made important contributions to the victory. But as the university swelled to accommodate thousands of returning veterans and the children of new arrivals in the state, there was a pronounced decline in women students’ enrollments. Their quantity began to shrink immediately after the war and remained beneath the 1939 level—5,495—throughout the 1950s. Women were both a smaller proportion of all students and a diminishing force on campus (https://pages.github.berkeley.edu/OPA/our-berkeley/enroll-history.html).