The Second World War much more than the first one saw an increasing role of women in the society. While indeed it was a horrific experience for most and resulted in huge losses of life, this was a time that saw the role of women in society amplified. The men were all drafted in various army units around the world and it was left to the women to meet the resulting labor demands and other spaces left by the departing men.
Women worked in factories, served in armies and pretty much everything with a number emerging as national icons. Society may have previously denied them opportunities but the war made them the only respite available. Their efforts were not glorified as those of men but they made strides in their own efforts in a number of fields and the one major area was sport
Prior to the Second World War, it was an accepted fact that women can only engage in soft’ games like softball, gold and tennis and were banned from the competitive ones that required physical contact, revealing clothes and unwomanly’ conduct.
However, during and after WW2 all these changed for the better in some cases gradually and in others much later. Women and sport during World War 2 became a subject that was embraced and encouraged at all levels in the society – things like baseball, football, and even running marathons became something that could be encouraged, although these women did not have running shoes (see here: womensrunningshoesreview.com) so the participation was much lower than expected. What necessitated this change was the fact that many leagues were stopped as top players got recruited in the war effort and the risk of attack became more apparent.
When the masses needed a pastime and recreation activity, they turned to women to provide them. The major sports women took part in were football, baseball, volleyball and basketball.
The participation of women in baseball best captures the role of women in sports and the opportunities they got during the world war. Prior to these, women had only been restricted to softball and when the minor leagues were closed as a result of the war, Business mogul and owner of the Chicago Cubs Major Baseball Leagues came up with the idea of a baseball league for women.
For the years from 1943 to 1954, women played professional baseball at all levels with the competitiveness of their male counterparts. Over 600 women were involved in the US alone while others played in their army units. The league would be later closed with the resumption of the war effort but it had showed that women could be professionals and compete ate the highest level. These ladies had set precedent and opened door for many.
Another sport to benefit from the war effort was football. While women participation has long started in some countries as early as before the Second World War, they were not supported by society and were just local outfits. With the war, many factories, organizations and even army units had women football teams.
The same happened to basketball and women volleyball. It was the first time several leading nations were spending in infrastructure for women sports and women sport stars and teams got attention at national and international media and settings. Some of the teams closed after the war but the foundations were already created and the myths about women participating in competitive sports were shown to be just myths. Later efforts to get more support for women in any sports came after this period.