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WOMEN OF THE FAR RIGHT by Glen Jeansonne

WOMEN OF THE FAR RIGHT

The Mothers' Movement and World War II

By Glen Jeansonne

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-226-39587-1
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

 A fascinating and frightening account of a little-discussed episode in American history. The mothers' movement, as its members referred to it, was a grassroots movement of women opposed to American involvement in WW II. Most of the women who joined had draft-age sons or husbands. They were also predominantly white, Christian, politically conservative, and opposed to the New Deal. But the shocking truth about these mothers, which Jeansonne (History/Univ. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Gerald L.K. Smith, 1988, etc.) reveals here, was far less benign than it would seem on the surface. The movement was not merely isolationist, it was also racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and anticommunist. Many of the women involved were even avowedly pro-Nazi, using the movement as a way to spread Nazi propaganda. Jeansonne discusses these women, especially the movement's leaders, and through them analyzes prejudice in general, concluding that extreme bigotry is mostly the result of anxiety and social stress, which produce the need for a scapegoat. But what stands out are Jeansonne's portraits of leaders such as Elizabeth Dilling, Cathrine Curtis, and others. These women were as far from the ideal of motherhood they touted as Hitler was from the Aryan one: Dilling's 25-year marriage was a complete disaster, although she claimed to have had a happy home until ``organized Jewry'' sent a ``bleached gold digger'' to seduce her husband; Bessie Burchett was nicknamed ``Two Gun'' because of the permits she held to carry two guns, one in a holster under her skirt. Working with limited source material and unwilling informants--relatives of the women involved were often unaware or ashamed of their participation in the mothers' movement--Jeansonne still manages to assemble a surprisingly full and informative book. A small gem--compelling and wonderfully written. (photos, not seen)