The end of World War II brought sweeping changes across the globe. The United States was not only stronger after the war, it now enjoyed economic stability not felt since the onset of the Depression in the 1030’s. The war’s end also highlighted the rising conflict between the communist beliefs of the Soviet Union and the capitalist philosophy that dominated the United States. This distinct separation in ideologies between nations that were once allies, and the tensions created by the diverse philosophies, thrust the U.S. into a Cold War that lasted over four decades. The Cold War engulfed Americans in a repressive political climate but also created an increased need to embrace and expand the democratic capitalistic mind-set on which the nation was founded.
Fear of the growing appeal of communism, especially in countries whose independent identity was yet to be defined after the war, led the United States to adopt a “hard-edged Cold War foreign policy.” (Schaller, 975) Many of the countries that were free from colonial rule at the war’s end held anti-capitalists views because they believed it was oppressive and was to blame for not only the depression, but the war as well. The U.S. feared that the surge in communism throughout these countries would restore the weakened Soviet Union to equal footing as a world power. As the fear of communism grew, the rights of Americans decreased as the federal government addressed the threat on a domestic level. Within the U.S., communism was quickly linked to liberal political views as well as differences in race, religion and culture. Policies such as Executive Order 9835, which forced over 5 million government employees to prove their allegiance through intense scrutiny, became a tool for discouraging the growth of communism within the U.S. Another policy enacted was the Smith Act which essentially labeled communism as “inherently subversive” and thus punishable as a federal offense. (Schaller, 982) Black veterans who were simply advocating for civil rights were also labeled insubordinate, or subversive, and thus linked to communist activity. Additionally, the perceived connection between many in Hollywood and the communist party threatened First and Fifth Amendment rights when their refusal to speak out against their contemporaries resulted in a federal prison term based on contempt of Congress charges. As some American civil liberties were being threatened during the Cold War era, the nation still presented the model of capitalism and upheld its “Land of the Free” philosophy.
The American way of life and the prosperity it provided became the most prominent weapon in the nation’s arsenal in fighting the rise of communism throughout the world. With men returning from war and rejoining the work force, American women were returning to their pre-war roles as housewives and mothers, or being forced back into lower paying jobs. At the urging of the government, women were encouraged to embrace this change as a means of fighting the