Life on the Homefront
Activity - Focus on Primary Sources

Educator Guide Activity
ABC-CLIO Database: American History
Time Period: World War II and the Cold War Era, 1939-1960
Topic: The War at Home
Skill: Describe
Process: Define and Illustrate an Idea
Inquiry Question: How did World War II impact Americans on the homefront?

Objectives: Students will use articles on life on the U.S. homefront and posters of the time to describe and illustrate what Americans were asked to do at home to support the war effort.

What students will discover in the sources: The reference entry "Rationing during World War II" discusses the rationale for wartime rationing, noting how rationing impacted daily life and was based on the use of rationing coupons for such items as food and gasoline. The World War II poster titled "When You Ride ALONE You Ride with Hitler!" rationing poster (1943)" demonstrates the link between rationing and its relationship to World War II efforts. The reference entry "War Bond Drives during World War II" explains the important contribution made to the funding of the war in the purchase of war savings bonds. The image titled "Poster for U.S. war stamps and bonds (1942)" provides insight into the ways that American families united behind the war with the purchase of war bonds and stamps. The reference entry "Working Women during World War II" examines the critical contribution made by women in defense industries during World War II. It also discusses the relationship between propaganda and efforts to encourage women to secure wartime jobs at home. Finally, the poster titled "Women in the War: We Can't Win Without Them" provides an example of the kind of wartime posters used to encourage women to enter defense jobs. Together, these sources will help students understand the various ways in which life on the home front changed during World War II.

From the American History Database

"All-American Girls Professional Baseball League: Rules of Conduct (1943),"

Rules of conduct for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, founded to boost American morale during World War II and allow the thriving baseball industry to continue in wartime.

"Female Defense Worker,"

A photograph of a woman riveter working at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, California during World War II.

"Franklin D. Roosevelt: Fireside Chat on the Home Front (1942),"

Transcript of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's radio address delivered October 12, 1942, remarking on the state of the homefront, including women in the workforce, the need for farm labor, and the drafting of youth in the military.

"Food Shortage during World War II,"

Photograph of shopkeeper rationing canned foods to his customers in a New York City grocery store, December 28, 1942.

"Women's Army Corps Appeal for Recruits (1945),"

Video from Women's Army Corps (WAC) calling for recruits to help with nursing duties during World War II.

"'Woman's Place in War-The Women's Army Corps',"

This World War II poster shows the need for women to take over traditionally male jobs in the military.

Professional Resources

"Guide: The War at Home," History Hub,

Pacing guide with key understandings, key questions, and primary and secondary sources describing how World War II affected Americans on the homefront.

Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. World War II on the Home Front: Civic Responsibility, Smithsonian in Your Classroom, Fall 2007,

Educator guide on the topic of World War II and the American homefront with an introduction on civic responsibility, a topic background, teaching materials, and lesson ideas.

Reference Books

Roberts, Priscilla. Voices of World War II: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2012.

Drawing together a wide variety of primary source documents from across the United States, Europe, and Asia, this book illuminates the events and daily-life experiences of World War II.

Shearer, Benjamin F., ed. Home Front Heroes: A Biographical Dictionary of Americans during Wartime. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007.

This title brings together 1,000 focused biographies of Americans who impacted how the United States made, supported, perceived, and protested its major wars from the Revolution to the Second Gulf War.

Welch, David. World War II Propaganda: Analyzing the Art of Persuasion during Wartime. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2017.

This encyclopedia shows in illuminating detail how the Allied and Axis forces used visual images and other propaganda material to sway public opinion during World War II.

Nonfiction for Students (6-12)

Colman, Penny. Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II. New York: Random House, 1995.

Based on interviews and original research by noted historian Penny Colman, Rosie the Riveter shows young readers how women fought World War II from the homefront.

Mundy, Liza. Code Girls: The True Story of the American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in World War II (Young Readers Edition). New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018.

The true story of the young American women who cracked German and Japanese military codes during World War II.

Literature & Film for Students

Giff, Patricia R. Lily's Crossing. New York: Dell Publishing, 1997.

This John Newberry Medal winner tells the story of how Lily's world is transformed when she meets Albert, a war refugee from Hungary, during the summer of 1944.

Hanks, Tom, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, and Penny Marshall. A League of Their Own. Culver City, CA: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2012. DVD.

Set during World War II, an ex-ballplayer (Tom Hanks) becomes coach to one of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League teams in 1943.

Paulsen, Gary. The Quilt. New York: Random House Children's Books, 2004.

During World War II, while his father is in Europe fighting and his mother is working in Chicago, a six-year-old boy goes to live with his grandmother in a rural Norwegian American community in Minnesota, where he sees the war's impacts on life at home.

Literature & Film for Educators

Berg, Elizabeth. Dream When You're Feeling Blue. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.

This novel structured in letters tells the story of World War II from the perspective of the young men on the battlefield and the women left behind on the homefront.

Crowley, John. Four Freedoms. New York: William Morrow, 2009.

A novel set in World War II America that follows the stories of a group of aircraft factory workers—in particular, the enigmatic figure of draftsman Prosper Olander.

Goodwin, Doris K. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History, this book examines the distinct leadership roles of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt on the homefront during the war years and discusses the dynamics of their marriage.

Kiernan, Denise. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

This is the story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who played a crucial role in one of the Manhattan Project's secret cities, unknowingly helping to supply uranium to create the first atomic bomb.

Websites & Mobile Apps

"America on the Homefront," National Archives,

A selection of records (radio clips, training manuals, meeting minutes, diary excerpts, and more) compiled from the National Archives at Boston that illustrate different aspects of life on the American homefront during World War II.

National Home Front Project,

Oral history initiative collecting the stories of American civilians impacted by World War II, with an archive of audio interviews, digital images of wartime letters, photographs, and other artifacts that help tell these stories.

MLA Citation

"The War at Home Activity: Life on the Homefront." ABC-CLIO Solutions, ABC-CLIO, 2022, Accessed 22 Jan. 2022.

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