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OUR MOTHERS' WAR: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II

Emily Yellin, Author
Emily Yellin, Author . Free Press $26 (464p) ISBN 978-0-7432-4514-2
Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Ebook - 464 pages - 978-1-4391-0358-6
Hardcover - 861 pages - 978-0-7862-6962-4
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-7432-4516-6
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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)

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