The role of African-American women in World War II, both at home and abroad, has not been explored as fully as other aspects of that war, and Mullenbach here addresses this deficit.
The women who tried to participate struggled against multiple obstacles: prejudice against women, segregated institutions and deep-seated discrimination against blacks in the United States. Despite these realities, many African-American women were determined to have a role in the war effort and to use their struggles to push the country toward greater inclusion for all. This exploration makes clear how hard they fought on their own behalf and how resistant U.S. society was to change, even in wartime and even as its leaders sought to galvanize the country around “four essential human freedoms.” Mullenbach effectively weaves this narrative by presenting a wide variety of individual stories of struggle, some victorious, others discouraging, many accompanied by period photographs. Whether she is describing a boycott of segregated Independence Day celebrations at an overseas Red Cross club or the indignities of Jim Crow travel for uniformed women, their dogged determination to fully engage is revealed. One of the many strengths of the book is the range of areas affected, including journalism, manufacturing, troop support, military nursing and many others. Ultimately, their unstinting efforts during World War II helped pave the way for the civil rights movement and major societal change.
A valuable asset. (notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction 14 & up)