Synopses & Reviews
"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Drawing on a wide range of sources, including personal interviews and previously unpublished letters and diaries, Yellin shows what went on in the hearts and minds of the real women behind the female images of World War II women working in war plants;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."
"After years of planting Victory gardens, volunteering at USOs and coping with increased home front responsibilities, in early 1945 Yellin's mother quit her desk job at Reader's Digest and shipped out to the Pacific Front to join the Red Cross. Wartime manpower shortages were bending gender rules, and many women seized the opportunity to try something different. While feminist historians have analyzed the meaning of their war experience, journalist Yellin takes a more subjective approach. This nonjudgmental, anecdotal account covers the usual range of topics women in war industries, in volunteer work, in the armed forces, in undercover operations but Yellin avoids retelling the familiar. Thus, she discusses the experiences of Lena Horne and Julia Child more fully than those of Eleanor Roosevelt, and delves deeper into the anti-Semitic Mothers' Movement and Hawaiian prostitutes walking picket lines than more mainstream organizations like the CIO women's committees. Yellin describes the exclusion of African-American women from most military units and the internment of Japanese-American women, but adds little to present scholarship on minority women's participation. Indeed, since her most original material comes from interviews with relatives, family friends and contacts, the book is strongest on the experiences of educated white women, which were surprisingly diverse. For WAVES director Mildred McAfee the president of Wellesley College before the war life in the navy took her out of her 'cloister' and thrust her into a world where 'women are women and men are men.' For others, like Yellin's mother, the war let their genies out of the bottle. Agent, Jennifer Gates. (May 4)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n exceptionally well-written, soundly researched description of the numerous and vitally important contributions of American women." Washington Post
"[A]n extremely successful cross between eyeopening oral history and traditional historical narrative." Library Journal
"Allowing her subjects' eloquent voices to speak for themselves, [Yellin] provides a fascinating slice of social history." Booklist
"An exceptionally well-written, exhaustively researched book....Our Mothers' War is an important book because the role played by women in World War II has been regularly ignored." School Library Journal
A stunning and unprecedented portrait of women from factory workers to pinup girls to spies during World War II, which drastically transformed women's roles in American society.
About the Author
Emily Yellin is a longtime contributor to The New York Times. Her work has also appeared in Newsweek and other publications. She currently lives in Memphis, Tennessee.
Table of Contents
prologue For Carol Lynn
Unearthing Our Mothers' War Years
one To Bring Him Home Safely
Wives, Mothers, and Sisters of Servicemen
two Soldiers Without Guns
Female Defense Industry Workers
three Putting Up a Good Front
Female Entertainers, Fictional Characters, and Icons
four This Man's Army
five On Duty at Home
WAVES, SPARs, Marines, and WASPs
six Save His Life and Find Your Own
Volunteers, Land Army, Red Cross Girls, and Nurses
seven Jane Crow
eight Behind Enemy Lines
Spies, Propaganda Workers, and Those Who Worked for the Enemy
nine A Question of Loyalty
ten Qualified Successes
Politicians, Journalists, Doctors, Baseball Players, and Other Professional
eleven The "Wrong Kind" of Woman
Prostitutes, Unwed Mothers, and Lesbians
twelve A War Within the War
Right-Wing, Anti-Semitic Mothers' Groups and Jewish-American Women
thirteen Inside the Secret City
Wives and WACs in Los Alamos
epilogue Their Legacy
Our Mothers' War Years Resounding Through Our Lives