Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II

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Simon and Schuster, May 11, 2010 - History - 464 pages
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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Drawing on a wide range of sources, including personal interviews and previously unpublished letters and diaries, Yellin shows what went on in the hearts and minds of the real women behind the female images of World War II -- women working in war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."

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User Review  - BevyAnn - LibraryThing

I don't think I can stress enough how much of an assett this book is to historians of the era. It covers a broad range of responsibilities that women took over during WWII. From the everyday mundane ... Read full review

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Page 266 of this book begins the story of the Mabuchi family in El Cerrito, California. Let me tell you a story about this family that they do not want you to know. My grandfather was a Sargeant in the El Cerrito Police at that time. The Police Chief and other city dignitaries were invited to the Mabuchi home for dinner on December 6, 1941. The Police Chief, Chief Cheek, had throat cancer and sent my grandfather in his place. Half-way through dinner, Mr. Mabuchi excused himself, left the room, and then returned a few minutes later wearing a black kimono and Samurai Sword, revealing himself to be a Samurai. He bowed to his guests and then said to them, "Today, you are the masters of your destiny. But tomorrow, we will be the masters of your destiny." My grandfather became enranged, got up, and left. All of the other guests followed him out. The next day, he contacted the FBI to tell them what happened. A few hours later, the Japanese attacked.
For several days following this incident, the Japanese marched their children in a parade around the block on which Mr. Mabuchi's floral shop sat. Daily, after school, two-by-two the children marched around the block waving miniature Japanese flags, and Mr. Mabuchi had hung a large Japanese flag in front of his store, all in open celebration of Japan's attack, their own treason, and in defiance of America.
The people of El Cerrito stopped patronizing the Mabuchi florist shop, not because they inherently hated the Japanese, but because the Mabuchis comitted treason against the people of El Cerrito and of the United States. They knew of the impending attack and welcomed it. The purpose of the internment was to break the connection between Japan and the Samurai in the United States. It is lamentable that innocents were swept up, but how else could the United States know who the Samurai were? The Mabuchi's were not the innocents this book would have you believe they were.


TWO Soldiers Without Guns
THREE Putting Up a Good Front
FIVE On Duty at Home
six Save His Life and Find Your Own
SEVEN Jane Crow
EIGHT Behind Enemy Lines
TWELVE A War Within the War
THIRTEEN Inside the Secret City
EPILOGUE Their Legacy
Permission Credits

NINE A Question of Loyalty
TEN Qualified Successes

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About the author (2010)

Emily Yellin is the author of Our Mothers’ War, and was a longtime contributor to the New York Times. She has also written for Time, the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, Newsweek, Smithsonian Magazine, and other publications. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin—Madison with a degree in English literature and received a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She currently lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

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