Monday 4 July 2011

Our Mothers' War

Finished July 3
Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front during World War II by Emily Yellin
Emily Yellin was inspired to write this book after finding letters and other papers relating to her own mother's war experience. Yellin found these items when clearing up after her mother died in 1999. She began wondering about the roles that 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, 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 heck of a lot reading this book, and it was funny that it related to another book I was reading, a fictional account of women pilots in the UK during WWII, The Beauty Chorus. Even some of the same names came up in both books.
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, Emily Yellin's personal experience from her mother, which included her mother's words giving a story about Emily and her friends when she was nine.
This is an extremely well-researched book that tells a story that was untold for far too long.
More information is available at the book's website.

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