WOMEN AT WAR WITH AMERICA: Private Lives in a Patriotic Era by D'Ann Campbell

WOMEN AT WAR WITH AMERICA: Private Lives in a Patriotic Era

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A solid history that balances the popular image of Rosie the Riveter with the WW II reality experienced by American women. For Prof. Campbell (History, Univ. of Indiana), American women were at war with America insofar as they felt the war at odds with their values--""the values of peace and of undisrupted private lives."" In this regard, Campbell carefully chronicles the differing experiences of women in the military, at work, and at home. In the military, moreover, WACS WAVES, SPARS, and women Marines fared differently from Army and Navy nurses. The first women's military units were poorly planned, badly administered, and much resented by the enlisted men who started a slander campaign, and by the high command, which failed to give the women's units a well-defined role. ""It never occurred to them that women needed a mission, mentors, and a share of power."" The nurses, on the other hand, were accepted as feminine women and respected as professionals. As for the women back homes government propaganda told them to man the jobs the men had left behind. Some few did, finding impediments on the corporate ladder and de facto segregation in blue-collar jobs. The majority didn't Heed the call to work or to place their children in daycare centers, which they distrusted and deemed inadequate. Some of the homemakers worked as volunteers, an activity Campbell views negatively: ""Volunteerism was an obsolete policy in a professionalized, industrialized warfare state, as the British and Soviets fully realized."" What was not a waste was patriotism-by-necessity: making do with crowded housing, rationed and inferior food, restricted consumer goods. Life on the homefront was especially hard for young service wives, feeling the shortages the most and getting little community support. Though many women hoped for some sort of postwar employment, Campbell provides varied evidence that most placed family above equal working rights. She has no quarrel with today's values, but wants to set the record straight. That she does--without minimizing the discrimination or the social limitations. (For testimony to these effects, see The Homefront, by Mark Harris et al., p. 81, and Studs Terkel's ""The Good War,"" p. 752.)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press