What are the challenges of being a very smart woman in a world with too few options? This is the central question for all the women of “Top Secret Rosies”. In 1940, a smart woman might find a low paying job as a secretary or a teacher, but after December 7, 1941 professional opportunities exploded. Suddenly the war effort needed female engineers, mathematicians and scientists. But, while opportunities literally changed overnight, societal attitudes did not. As each episode of “Top Secret Rosies” unfolds, the female characters are constantly challenged by outside forces reflecting America’s entrenched ideas of gender, and of race.
The issue of race is a key subtext of the greater conflict of WWII and it is also key to this story. The story centers on a Jewish family living in a Catholic neighborhood of Philadelphia who take in an African-American woman and her child. In this neighborhood during WWII it would not be unusual to see an Italian parade in support of Mussolini, or German-American Bund groups meeting in public. Ethnic and racial questions that rose to the forefront in the United States as a result of U.S. involvement in the greater world war are played out on a personal level, as this story pits community expectation and family obligation against individual dreams.