Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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Instances of juvenile delinquency increased significantly during the war. Households containing teenage children were disrupted frequently. Fathers who entered the armed services left mothers to cope as heads of families. Mothers in turn were in high demand for well paying jobs outside the home. These jobs allowed mothers to maintain and even improve their families' prewar living standards but they also caused teens to be left unsupervised. Women were usually the last to enter the workplace and especially in industries whose work forces were union organized they were subject to seniority systems which gave new employees the least desirable working hours. Thus in many homes the only authority figure around often was working the 4:00 p.m. to midnight or the midnight to 8:00 a.m. shifts.

A particular delinquency problem was the victory girl. This teenage phenomenon was dressed usually in an oversized sweater, a skirt, bobby sox, and saddle shoes. Her hair usually contained numerous ribbons and her face was heavily made up to disguise her young age. In part out of a sense of patriotism she was drawn to young servicemen and freely provided them sexual favors. Her lack of experience often caused her not to require the use of condoms. This resulted in a serious spread of venereal disease. The Chicago Tribune referred to these girls as "patriotutes." Although victory girls did not constitute a large percentage of the juvenile population they were a visible presence which caused their elders great consternation.

Throughout the war years school administrators, church officials, sociologists, civic leaders, and government welfare spokesmen met regularly to discuss with increasing urgency means by which to address the juvenile delinquency problem. Curfews, enforced school attendance, the prevention of the sale of liquor to minors, and the provision of healthy and attractive recreational centers were a few of the ideas put forward and implemented in various communities across the state.

Points to Consider

Which kinds of offenses were young females arrested for?

Why was juvenile delinquency a problem during the war?

Who might have attended the Thirteenth Annual Delinquency Prevention Conference?

What might some of the "constructive influences which an aroused community can provide" have been?

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