Sunday, May 14, 2017

Our Mothers' War

Our Mothers' War

Adult herstory
"Hail to the women of America! You have taken up your heritage from
the brave women of the past. Just as did the women of other wars, you
have taken your positions as soldiers on the home front...The efforts
and accomplishments of women today are boundless.
But whatever else you do--you are, first and foremost, women
with the welfare of your families deepest in your hearts...Never has
there been such an opportunity, and a need, for what American women
can contribute."
My mother and I never talked much about World War II. I'm not
sure which of us was more reluctant. She had lived through the
deprivations and fears and lost her favorite brother in the fighting.
I was inexplicably terrified of a time before my birth. In fact I was
downright surprised when I borrowed Emily Yellin's Our Mothers' War:
American Women At Home And At The Front During World War II. I was
very glad I did. Over a several evening span I studied it cover to
America's entry into World War II propelled a lot of women from
fairly traditional lives with homemaker as main raison d'être to roles
they and society as a whole had not envisioned. When men were sent in
large numbers into battle shortages happened. Industries vital to
warfare needed workers. Farms needed laborers to produce huge amounts
of food needed to feed servicemen. Even the military was short on
manpower. There was no way around it. Women would have to take up
the slack.
Those who accepted this state of affairs were not always happy
about it. Some were unjustifiably concerned that women could not do
many of the tasks they were charged with accomplishing. Others feared
that the changes they wanted to see as temporary would end up being
permanent. In WWI people had asked how returning GIs would be kept
down on the farm once they had experienced Paris. Now the concern was
how women who had experienced more freedom and independence and the
thrill of earning a paycheck could be pushed back to housewifery once
the men returned to take over. Women taking on new roles faced
everything from ridiculous rules to outright hostility. Women, for
example, were said to give soldiers venereal diseases, never the
I can't imagine any women's roles of that time, at home and
abroad, that Yellin doesn't cover. They include:
*the Rosie the Riveters who took over heavy industrial production--
anything from munitions to bombers;
*the entertainers who kept up troop morale;
*the soldiers and spies;
*the Red Cross girls and nurses;
and so many more. Readers will even learn about the sex workers of
whom the military was very much aware.
The stories of two groups of women are particularly poignant.
Black women seeking jobs were doubly disadvantaged. Those in the Jim
Crow south lived with the realization that loved ones were risking
their very lives for a country in which they would still be considered
second class citizens. Japenese women and their families were sent to
concentration camps so inadequate to meet basic human needs that
secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes sent a protest letter to
President Roosevelt.
Our Mothers' War is a must read for women's studies scholars. It
is also a lively read, full of intriguing personal stories, that
provides a fascinating look at a not so distant chapter of herstory.
On a personal note, I had an excellent Mothers' Day despite the
pouring rain. I got lovely gifts from my kids. My son dropped by and
my daughters called. I will be doing a crafts day with Amber and
Brian soon and going to Peaks Island sometime this summer with Katie
and Jacob.
A great big shout out goes out to my fellow moms today.
jules hathaway

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