The Andrews Sisters were a singing trio from the Boogie Woogie era and were popular during WWII when women were called to service by the American government after many of the men went to fight in the war. In their lifetime, they sold over 80 million records (To put that in perspective, this is roughly the same amount as Tom Petty) and were one of the faces of a new era of women taking the workforce by storm. How did WWII affect them and the other women in society at that time?
Propaganda Campaigns During WWII
During the war, campaigns such as Rosie the Riveter grew out of the need for women to get out and work while the men were away. This always came with an unspoken expectation that once the war was won, women would return to their “place” in society. While the Andrews Sisters got their start as teenagers performing vaudeville reviews throughout the Midwest, they rose to fame with patriotic melodies such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”. This rise to fame was funded by the American government which exerted its power over acts like the Andrews Sisters to promote WWII propaganda and stir up patriotism amongst their people. Acts like the Andrews Sisters were pushed to the top of the charts and were wheeled to USO events making them one of the highest-paid performing groups of the decade. This increased visibility was thought to create motivation among women to join the workforce and give troops the morale needed to win the war.
“…they rose to fame with patriotic melodies such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”.”
Fighting a Different Kind of War
When WWII ended in 1945, many at the time still held on to the belief that women
would simply go back to the way things were pre-war and allow men to dominate industries. They were instead met with a force of women ready to fight for their place in society. The Andrews Sisters, like many women, could not forget their achievements during the war. While many USO groups were disbanded, The Andrews Sisters continued making music in the years after the war competing in the male-led industry of the time with stars such as Bing Crosby and Buddy Clark.
“The Andrews Sisters, like many women, could not forget their achievements during the war.”
Leading the Way
Because of The Andrew Sisters' popularity, they landed a contract with Universal
Pictures and in 1947, they appeared in “The Road to Rio” with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour. While LaVerne passed away in 1967, the two other women joined together in 1974 for Broadway’s “Over Here!”. After that, Patty continued on her own, finding success in Las Vegas and on TV variety shows. Her sister also toured solo until her death in 1995.
The Andrews Sisters, like many women of their time, found a new life after WWII and led the way for many in a society like women had never seen before. They stepped through the door opened by the war and created a path that so many incredible women have followed. At Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, we’re so excited to share their story in our upcoming production of Sisters of Swing: The Story of the Andrews Sisters showing May 19-29, 2022. To find out more, click here: https://www.sartplays.com/sistersofswing