Our Mothers' War

Our Mothers' War

American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II

Book - 2004
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"Our women are serving actively in many ways in this war, and they are doing a grand job on both the fighting front and the home front." -- Eleanor Roosevelt, 1944 Our Mothers' War is a stunning and unprecedented portrait of women during World War II, a war that forever transformed the way women participate in American society. Never before has the vast range of American women's experience during this pivotal era been brought together in one book. Now, Our Mothers' War re-creates what American women from all walks of life were doing and thinking, on the home front and abroad. Like all great histories, Our Mothers' War began with an illuminating discovery. After finding a journal and letters her mother had written while serving with the Red Cross in the Pacific, journalist Emily Yellin started unearthing what her mother and other women of her mother's generation went through during a time when their country asked them to step into roles they had never been invited, or allowed, to fill before. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including personal interviews and previously unpublished letters and diaries, Yellin shows what went on in the hearts and minds of the real women behind the female images of World War II -- women working in war plants; mothers and wives sending their husbands and sons off to war and sometimes death; women joining the military for the first time in American history; nurses operating in battle zones in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific; and housewives coping with rationing. Yellin also delves into lesser-known stories, including: tales of female spies, pilots, movie stars, baseball players, politicians, prostitutes, journalists, and even fictional characters; firsthand accounts from the wives of the scientists who created the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, African-American women who faced Jim Crow segregation laws at home even as their men were fighting enemy bigotry and injustice abroad, and Japanese-American women locked up as prisoners in their own country. Yellin explains how Wonder Woman was created in 1941 to fight the Nazi menace and became the first female comic book superhero, as well as how Marilyn Monroe was discovered in 1944 while working with her mother-in-law packing parachutes at a war plant in Burbank, California. Our Mothers' War gives center stage to those who might be called "the other American soldiers."
Publisher: New York : Free Press, c2004
ISBN: 9780743245142
Branch Call Number: 940.5315 Yellin
940.5315 Yellin
Characteristics: xiv, 447 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm


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L1br0V0re Feb 22, 2013

Fascinating look at the feminine side of the Greatest Generation. It's appalling to think of the sexual double standard which raged then. Women, not men, were blamed for spreading venereal disease. Single women were barred from going to public places like bars unescorted. Underage women were arrested for hanging out near military bases. While white women were allowed to take dangerous industrial jobs and serve in auxiliary services (WACs, WAVEs, WASPs, nursing, etc.), many women of color were barred or forced to take the worst possible jobs. All women dealt with harassment from male co-workers. Lesbians were subjected to degrading disciplinary hearings. In spite of this, women kept the factories humming, the wounded alive, the troops supplied and entertained, and children fed and clothed during a time of tremendous dislocation and shortages. They also calculated artillery trajectories, helped to crack enemy codes and risked their lives as spies. If you are at all interested in the social impact of World War II on the US, read this book.

Cdnbookworm Jul 04, 2011

Emily Yellin was inspired to write this book after finding letters and other papers relating to her own mother's war experience after she died in 1999. She began wondering about the roles women played in the war and did some serious research.
The book is divided into several sections, each on a different aspect or role of women's lives during that period.
She included factory workers, military personnel, auxiliary workers, entertainers, nurses, spies, and politicians. She looked at the roles of black women, Jewish women and those involved in right wing anti-Semitic groups. She interviewed Japanese-American women on their experience. She looked at the women of Los Alamos and how they dealt with uncertainty.
She even looked at sexuality during the war, covering prostitution, young girls enamored of soldiers, unwed mothers, and lesbians.
I learned a lot reading this book. The courage of these women, getting a taste of independence and fighting for their image, their jobs, their country, and sometimes their lives was inspiring. I was particularly taken by the last chapter, which included a speech Yellin's mother gave when Emily was nine, reflecting well on her.
This is an extremely well-researched book that tells a story that was untold for too long.


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