Abstract: Why Working Women Became Pin-up Girls: The Construction and Representation of Female Bodies in U.S. Factories during World War II

Jennifer Malia McAndrew


This work explains the meanings and significance of female beauty culture in the industrial workplace during World War II. Using employee publications and several corporate archives, I document the popularity of pin-up contests, beauty pageants, and beautification workshops that employers hosted for their newly hired white female workforce during the war. I argue that the broadcasting of ordinary women's beautified and sexualized bodies in U.S. factories maintained gender difference and facilitated gender hierarchy at a time when women had the opportunity to attain more desirable occupations and gain economic power in the workplace.