Rachel Harris is undertaking a PhD in the Department of History, School of Humanities and her thesis title is: In a State of War: Women’s experiences of the South Australian home front, 1939-1945.
Rachel’s research aims to ascertain the extent to which gender shaped the social and economic experiences of civilian women in South Australia during World War II. It addresses women’s employment experiences in both city and country, with a particular focus on females in munitions work and the Australian women’s Land Army. The thesis will also examine the social effects of the war, including its impact on women’s domestic commitments and family life, and how these experiences varied according to age, occupation, location and race.
Topics for discussion include women’s involvement in the voluntary sector, absenteeism rates in industry and the issue of childcare provision for working mothers, and the impact of rationing and shopping restrictions on full-time workers, housewives and mothers. It will also consider how women were affected by South Australia’s acute shortage of housing and war worker accommodation. Finally, the thesis will address the issues of sexuality and morality, exploring how South Australian women negotiated themselves through a period in which both their public and private behaviour were often heavily scrutinised.