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Our Mothers' War is an eye-opening and moving 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 women's experiences 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 thinkin Our Mothers' War is an eye-opening and moving 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 women's experiences 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. These heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking accounts of the women we have known as mothers, aunts, and grandmothers reveal facets of their lives that have usually remained unmentioned and unappreciated. Our Mothers' War gives center stage to one of WWII's most essential fighting forces: the women of America, whose extraordinary bravery, strength, and humanity shine through on every page.


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Our Mothers' War is an eye-opening and moving 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 women's experiences 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 thinkin Our Mothers' War is an eye-opening and moving 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 women's experiences 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. These heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking accounts of the women we have known as mothers, aunts, and grandmothers reveal facets of their lives that have usually remained unmentioned and unappreciated. Our Mothers' War gives center stage to one of WWII's most essential fighting forces: the women of America, whose extraordinary bravery, strength, and humanity shine through on every page.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I idly picked up this book from a remainder table in an out- of- the- way, dusty shopping arcade in a small coastal North Carolina town. I wasn't expecting much. I was wrong. Once I started reading, I stopped only for meals, sleep, and work. I got up at 2am one night to read some more. These are stories of World War II that you don't know, haven't thought to ask about, but they are the stories of half the population of America living during those years. Emily Yellin writes about mothers, wives, I idly picked up this book from a remainder table in an out- of- the- way, dusty shopping arcade in a small coastal North Carolina town. I wasn't expecting much. I was wrong. Once I started reading, I stopped only for meals, sleep, and work. I got up at 2am one night to read some more. These are stories of World War II that you don't know, haven't thought to ask about, but they are the stories of half the population of America living during those years. Emily Yellin writes about mothers, wives, sisters, factory workers, pilots, nurses, doctors and other scientists, interned Japanese women, spies, prostitutes, pin-up girls, movie stars, African-American women in military service, women in the Red Cross, the WAVES, the WACS, the SPAR. Not only do you learn their stories (which are fascinating, varied, inspiring and too often heartbreaking), but you learn about a great deal the world at large in that important period, only sixty short years ago. I'll bet you think you've read and seen and heard much about World War II already, but you haven't seen enough. Find a copy of this book and read it. Now.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    This well researched book give us a look into the roles woman played in WWII. Its obvious that with out the contributions of the women, WWII would not have been won.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    One would expect a book of this ilk to tell about homemaking under the strictures of rationing, Rosie the Riveter, military nurses, maybe even the USO entertainers-- but THIS book gives credit to EVERY womanly experience on the WWII homefront, even a few you might not have thought about. Volunteers, women of color, spies, lesbians, professionals (including journalists and baseball players) prostitutes and camp followers-- and a few more! Because of the breadth of information, "Our Mother's War" w One would expect a book of this ilk to tell about homemaking under the strictures of rationing, Rosie the Riveter, military nurses, maybe even the USO entertainers-- but THIS book gives credit to EVERY womanly experience on the WWII homefront, even a few you might not have thought about. Volunteers, women of color, spies, lesbians, professionals (including journalists and baseball players) prostitutes and camp followers-- and a few more! Because of the breadth of information, "Our Mother's War" would be an excellent introduction to the subject of women's lives on the WWII homefront and the front. How powerfully some of them served-- and how difficult society made it for them to do their utmost. There are enough personal letters and individual anecdotes to give a warm and affectionate tone-- but there wasn't quite enough space to develop as much of that sort of thing as I like to have. Still: a wide-ranging and sometimes startling read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    Emily Yellin's Our Mother's War is one a several books claiming to be the first or only complete report on the many roles America's women's played during the course of World War II. Ms Yellin's version is well research and addresses a surprising long list . We have her take on Rosie the Riveter, but also the so called Good Time Girls. She has the courage to include the special burdens placed upon black women, the Japanese internees and lesbians. The result is a wide ranging but not very deep rep Emily Yellin's Our Mother's War is one a several books claiming to be the first or only complete report on the many roles America's women's played during the course of World War II. Ms Yellin's version is well research and addresses a surprising long list . We have her take on Rosie the Riveter, but also the so called Good Time Girls. She has the courage to include the special burdens placed upon black women, the Japanese internees and lesbians. The result is a wide ranging but not very deep reporting of what women wrote and said. There are relatively few titles that speak to the contributions of and problems faced by the different women who were by accident of birth or deliberate decision part of the American Female Experience of World War II. This book is a good book to start your readings on this topic. Mostly Ms Yellin write well. She is neither a trained historian nor a much published writer. Early chapters tend to have too many time shifts and it can be tricky to keep a time line under her narrative. Once she moves into the histories of particular institutions, Military Nurses, the Red Cross and etcetera she becomes bound to the sequence of events as that institutions experienced them and this problem is minimized. She is not a historian but she is writing from the heart. The good news is that her work is not dry and technical and she is sincere enough to let her story tell itself without dramatics. She writes as a woman and with a woman's point of view but what she writes feels honest such that male readers need not feel defensive or excluded. What America's women did, suffered to overcome and accomplished for themselves and for their country is an import part of understanding both WWII and the roots of the Woman's Movement. It is common knowledge that women had to overcome a variety of prejudices before earning the right to choose their own destinies. There are many places one can read about the ongoing problems of balancing home and work while fending off unwanted attentions getting the children to their various activities on time and in good health. Many of the details within these larger subjects remain political and garner various arguments. Can we at least agree that the persons who placed sugar in the gas tanks of aircraft to be flown by women (causing the death of more than one female pilot) are among the lowest of the low? Can we speed this discussion by admitting that the routine tricks to keep women from receiving the same pay for the same jobs, the same chance at promotion were inexcusable. In the particular cases of women who also crossed the color barrier, can we agree that it was and is despicable that they faced life and limb risks only because race? By taking us through the variations from the women left behind ; caring for home and families that many of their men would never know, to the women who went to work in the farm fields and factories, to the women in uniforms and hospitals, in espionage and nuclear weapons development; we get a glimpse of the `many faces of Eve' . But here is only a glimpse. Ultimately, Our Mother's War is an introduction. None of these topics are exhaustive covered and there is very little analysis. Because this is a reader friendly book, one can finish it and feel that you have a sufficiently large scale understanding of the topic. A better result is that the reader will feel welcome to delve deeper into this topic and by doing so honor the diverse and war winning contributions of America's women. Our Mother's War was purchased by me at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. As such it is not an Amazon verified selection. I paid the higher price for getting it at their gift shop, but I also get to support and remind you of this worthy museum.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Fantastic! This exploration of the US women's experience of WW II was fantastic. The author generously sprinkled letters and interviews throughout the book which brought the narrative to life. Yellin explores what women went through beyond going to work--we all know about that. She explains the impact that the war had on relationships as well as how going to work effected the women. She speaks to the African-American woman's experience as well as the women incarcerated in the Japanese-American i Fantastic! This exploration of the US women's experience of WW II was fantastic. The author generously sprinkled letters and interviews throughout the book which brought the narrative to life. Yellin explores what women went through beyond going to work--we all know about that. She explains the impact that the war had on relationships as well as how going to work effected the women. She speaks to the African-American woman's experience as well as the women incarcerated in the Japanese-American internment camps. One of the most facinating chapters was about the family experience of those who went to work on the Atomic project and lived at Los Alamos, NM.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bev

    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 to the far reaching spy networks overseas. The interviews with several prominent females of the years covering the war make it a great resource for research. What started as curiosity became an obsession. Each category represented has alot of clear information as well as information on where to start 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 to the far reaching spy networks overseas. The interviews with several prominent females of the years covering the war make it a great resource for research. What started as curiosity became an obsession. Each category represented has alot of clear information as well as information on where to start new researching options. I can't begin to list all the various historical information that really made an impression on me. This is a MUST read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    Nice collection of personal experiences from women who were pilots, soldiers, scientists, actresses, welders, musicians, mothers, wives, spies, and more during "the Big One." The personal approach makes this a pretty absorbing read. Makes a great introduction to the breadth of women's experiences during the Second World War--from Appalchian women moving to industrial towns to African-American women struggling with racial prejudice in the Army, it has a lot of ground to cover. My students really Nice collection of personal experiences from women who were pilots, soldiers, scientists, actresses, welders, musicians, mothers, wives, spies, and more during "the Big One." The personal approach makes this a pretty absorbing read. Makes a great introduction to the breadth of women's experiences during the Second World War--from Appalchian women moving to industrial towns to African-American women struggling with racial prejudice in the Army, it has a lot of ground to cover. My students really seemed to enjoy it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Darcy

    My problem with this book is that is is too broad. Instead of focusing on a limited set of women's roles during WWII, the author chose to include every role a woman fulfilled in the war effort. As a result, this book read more like someone's term paper instead of a complete book. I did enjoy the chapters on whores and the women involved in the Los Alamos project who either helped build the bomb or played a supporting role in the community. Someone should write a book just about these women. Oh, a My problem with this book is that is is too broad. Instead of focusing on a limited set of women's roles during WWII, the author chose to include every role a woman fulfilled in the war effort. As a result, this book read more like someone's term paper instead of a complete book. I did enjoy the chapters on whores and the women involved in the Los Alamos project who either helped build the bomb or played a supporting role in the community. Someone should write a book just about these women. Oh, and whores are good too.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    A little boring at times, but overall, a fascinating look at the role(s) of women during WWII. I learned a lot. My favorite chapters related to the roles of African-American Women, Japanese Americans, the nurses who volunteered for service as opposed to the men who were drafted and the women who were in the OSS (a precursor to the CIA) and OWI. Do you know what famous woman was a valued member of the OSS? Check out this book to find the answer! Note: This was our Janaury 2011 book discussion book A little boring at times, but overall, a fascinating look at the role(s) of women during WWII. I learned a lot. My favorite chapters related to the roles of African-American Women, Japanese Americans, the nurses who volunteered for service as opposed to the men who were drafted and the women who were in the OSS (a precursor to the CIA) and OWI. Do you know what famous woman was a valued member of the OSS? Check out this book to find the answer! Note: This was our Janaury 2011 book discussion book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I ordered this book from our local library through MelCat. My mom was a WAVE during WWII so I was interested in finding out about the contributions made by women like my mother during this time. The book did not disappoint. It looked at all the contributions of women not just in the branches of the military, but also at the home front. The author mentioned the discrimination the women faced while performing so many needed jobs. There was so much good information I can use as the return to the cl I ordered this book from our local library through MelCat. My mom was a WAVE during WWII so I was interested in finding out about the contributions made by women like my mother during this time. The book did not disappoint. It looked at all the contributions of women not just in the branches of the military, but also at the home front. The author mentioned the discrimination the women faced while performing so many needed jobs. There was so much good information I can use as the return to the classroom this fall. I glad I read it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    great writing by emily yellin and testimonies by the real women. Can't to read the chapter on the baseball players. League of Our Own one of my favorite movies. I really enjoyed learning more about all of the different roles that women played during WWII. I had never heard of Axis Sally before reading this book. I am tempted to buy this to add to my bookshelves so I may revisit it from time to time.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ellen W.

    I have been repeating information gleaned from this book since I started it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. "Did you know. . .?" will be a constant conversation starter after you read the chapters devoted to every station a woman during the WWII years might have held be it as an entertainer, politician, student, prostitute, spy, reporter, etc. World War II changed everything. If you are a woman, read this book and find out how it impacted your life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Selena

    Great book if you love women's history or the WWII history in general. I mean, I always knew women took over men's jobs stateside and were Red Cross girls but, there was so much more that they did and had to endure. This book wasn't preachy (like, Power to Women Yo! They faught too!) - it was a light historical account of all the different roles women played -good and bad- in WWII.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    I learned so much about how many different jobs women in America provided during World War II. No wonder women had a hard time going back home after the war. The most interesting were the African American women who asked to be part of the Army and straightened out the mail system in Europe for our Armed Forces.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    A look at women of #WWII inclusive of wives, mothers, WACs and WAVES, volunteers, propaganda workers, Land Army, African-American, Japanese-American, Jewish-American, politicians, journalists, prostitutes, unwed mothers, lesbians, and more. Most everyone will find their mother's role somewhere in this book. #history #wwii

  16. 4 out of 5

    Quinn Collard

    This book was really interesting. I've been fascinated with the culture of the 1940s and 1950s lately, and the experience of women during World War II was a subject I didn't know very much about. I liked that the book included so many first-person accounts from women who lived through the war about their own experiences.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    A very interesting look at the roles women played during World War Two. I was particularly fascinated by the WACs and WASPs, but Yellin doesn't leave anyone out, from actresses to nurses to prostitutes. If you like women's history, and World War II history, this is a must-read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    This author's narrative is wonderful at incorporating primary source material. I liked being able to really appreciate the difficulty, frustrations, and successes faced by women during World War II.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Emily Yellin's "Our Mothers' War" is a thorough journey of the effects World War II had on women in general, the effect the changes brought on in the home-front lives of women and their families, and how women adapted to the changes they experienced. Anecdotes from women from all walks of life are included in this true story - from the highly educated to the unable-to-complete-school, women, from those who stayed with their families to raise their children and look after parents, to those women Emily Yellin's "Our Mothers' War" is a thorough journey of the effects World War II had on women in general, the effect the changes brought on in the home-front lives of women and their families, and how women adapted to the changes they experienced. Anecdotes from women from all walks of life are included in this true story - from the highly educated to the unable-to-complete-school, women, from those who stayed with their families to raise their children and look after parents, to those women who joined the various women's branches of the military, to those who were herded into Japanese-American prison camps,to the "government girls", single women, divorced women, widows before and during the war, ladies-of-the-night, female spies both at home and overseas, nurses with their responsibilities and tragedies, and the list goes on. All points of view from the perspective of women in all of these trenches are explored. The reader learns how difficult war-time restrictions were on these strong women and the impact of the war on their household management, the changes in the way they thought about the old structures of the family hierarchy, and their conflict, after the war ended, in whether to go back to the stay-at-home model in the pre-1940's lifestyle or whether to fight for and remain in their work outside of the home. The one common denominator in this story is how strong women were back then in facing the attitudes and prejudices that were so prevalent in the early part of the 20th century, and how women today are what they are because of the strength and resiliency of those who fought the day-to-day battles at home. On a personal note, Sarah Shaber's "Louise Pearlie Mystery" series was the contributing factor to this writer's interest in learning more about the war's effect on daily life here in the States. Ms. Shaber's books (six in the series, to be read in order for best reading) show the changes in mindset and workload of a woman who leaves the family farm to get a job in wartime Washington, D.C. It is interesting and informative to read how this woman matures and learns how to function in a man's world at the time while maintaining her determination and sense of self. The stories in Ms. Shaber's books were the catalyst to learn more about the lack of well-being and then the strong nature of these women who made it through the war with many lessons learned and shared. "Our Mothers' War" should be part of World War II studies that initially gives a overview and then delves into the particulars of living with the dark cloud of death and loss at home during wartime. Highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fran Severn

    When we think of women in WW2, we think of Rosie the Riveter. She was part of the war effort, but there was much more socially and economically than women working at war plants. Before WW2, women's roles were limited to house, home, schools, nursing, and a few menial clerical jobs. The war changed all of that. As women were needed to fill other positions, as their skills in other areas were recognized, women took on new roles which fundamentally changed society. It did not come easily. The book When we think of women in WW2, we think of Rosie the Riveter. She was part of the war effort, but there was much more socially and economically than women working at war plants. Before WW2, women's roles were limited to house, home, schools, nursing, and a few menial clerical jobs. The war changed all of that. As women were needed to fill other positions, as their skills in other areas were recognized, women took on new roles which fundamentally changed society. It did not come easily. The book is filled with the level of resistance the government presented to block women. The attitudes towards the "weaker sex" and their limitations are not alien, even now. The book looks as every area of women: employment, home life, Japanese internees, "women of the night," nurses, professionals, war correspondents, entertainers, African-Americans, volunteers. When the war ended, women often resented that lost of pay, status, and opportunities they'd experienced. Women who argued against that were often criticized as not appreciating the veterans and of forgetting their "proper role" in society. It's a little odd that it took another complete generation for women to regain those opportunities. It was the granddaughters of Rosie and not her daughters who reminded society of what women could do when the not only had to but wanted to.

  21. 5 out of 5

    L.A.B.

    Emily Yellin was moved to write this book after reading a stack of letters she found in the attic of her mother's house. They revealed a woman whose life during World War II was quite different from the mom that raised Emily. As she researched and conducted interviews for the book, Yellin uncovered largely untold stories of women who worked to support the men who fought. From nurses to Red Cross workers, from pilots to translators and code breakers, women wore uniforms, learned to march, and wor Emily Yellin was moved to write this book after reading a stack of letters she found in the attic of her mother's house. They revealed a woman whose life during World War II was quite different from the mom that raised Emily. As she researched and conducted interviews for the book, Yellin uncovered largely untold stories of women who worked to support the men who fought. From nurses to Red Cross workers, from pilots to translators and code breakers, women wore uniforms, learned to march, and worked long hours. Some put their lives on the line, as well. By combining the words of the women themselves with historical snapshots of the war years, Yellin presents a readable, informative, and sweeping perspective on the roles women fulfilled. She talks about the sacrifices, adventures, discrimination, and life-affirming experiences. I was reminded of my friend Alice who had been a communications specialist during WWII. It was a good book and a look at a part of American history that is usually under represented.

  22. 5 out of 5

    prima

    This is such a good book if, like me, you're extremely interested in the non-combat side of World War 2. I was very happy to see the chapters for Japanese-American and Black women, since often in a lot of media their role in WW2 is either diminished or not addressed, ditto for the discrimination and hostility they faced even when they tried to pitch in for the war effort. Some chapters are particularly hard to read as a modern woman, just for the sheer injustice, sexism and racism that followed This is such a good book if, like me, you're extremely interested in the non-combat side of World War 2. I was very happy to see the chapters for Japanese-American and Black women, since often in a lot of media their role in WW2 is either diminished or not addressed, ditto for the discrimination and hostility they faced even when they tried to pitch in for the war effort. Some chapters are particularly hard to read as a modern woman, just for the sheer injustice, sexism and racism that followed ALL of the women of WW2. The addition of personal writings from numerous women in all fields of work during the war gives this book a real personal and human touch, and makes you feel more connected to them. I'm very glad I picked this up on a whim and heartily recommend it to anyone who's interested in WW2.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aisha Manus

    Readable and full of so many amazing women. A lot I did not know and a lot enraged me at the treatment these women endured. Wish I could give it five stars but there was a part in the book that was completely inaccurate. On page 265, the author writing about Japanese interment camps wrote: “but the hysteria was only on the west coast. Hawaii, on the other hand, where a large portion of the population was of Japanese decent and where the attack buy the Japanese military had occurred, did not feel Readable and full of so many amazing women. A lot I did not know and a lot enraged me at the treatment these women endured. Wish I could give it five stars but there was a part in the book that was completely inaccurate. On page 265, the author writing about Japanese interment camps wrote: “but the hysteria was only on the west coast. Hawaii, on the other hand, where a large portion of the population was of Japanese decent and where the attack buy the Japanese military had occurred, did not feel the need to remove from the island the Issei and Nisei among its residents.” This is absolutely false information. There were over 2000 residents that were forced off the island after they spent time in camps on Oahu like Sand Island and Honouliuli. Several hundred were rounded up the night after the attack.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ottilee B.

    This was an interesting and shocking (surprising?) read. I've read/seen tv shows, etc of Rosie-the-riveter-types but some have been fictional accounts that didn't answer all of my questions. Indeed, I didn't even realize there WERE questions still to ask or how to phrase them! IDK for instance, women flew planes to pickup/deliver things across country or that there was an entire section in Honolulu ("Hotel Street") where soldiers paid to get laid- regulated by the military police! (These sex wor This was an interesting and shocking (surprising?) read. I've read/seen tv shows, etc of Rosie-the-riveter-types but some have been fictional accounts that didn't answer all of my questions. Indeed, I didn't even realize there WERE questions still to ask or how to phrase them! IDK for instance, women flew planes to pickup/deliver things across country or that there was an entire section in Honolulu ("Hotel Street") where soldiers paid to get laid- regulated by the military police! (These sex workers had over 100 clients a DAY! Yikes!) A decidedly different kind of Rosie read but I'm glad I now know about more of the true WWII history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Meagan

    This book is entertaining as well as informative. Every American woman should know this suppressed history of how females contributed to WWII, just as much as men did. No, they didn't fight in the trenches, but only because they were not allowed to. However, they did practically everything else from taking over civilian jobs, to plotting coordinates of enemy vessels, to being complicit with government direction. Because of this generation of amazing heroes, I was able to join the US Army and do This book is entertaining as well as informative. Every American woman should know this suppressed history of how females contributed to WWII, just as much as men did. No, they didn't fight in the trenches, but only because they were not allowed to. However, they did practically everything else from taking over civilian jobs, to plotting coordinates of enemy vessels, to being complicit with government direction. Because of this generation of amazing heroes, I was able to join the US Army and do the same job a man did. Thank you Emily Yellin for bringing these stories to light!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Wesley Coburn

    A terrific history of what WWII was like here in the States. I love WWII history, and this area is one that doesn't get talked about very often. Lots of little details I hadn't ever considered, like how there was a whole city of wives and children of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project. Very dense with information, however, so it's a slow read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Havens

    A really thorough account of women's contributions during World War II. One of the few m==books I found myself angered when reading about the slights these women experienced both during and after the war. But it is also the story of women who took on jobs stoically, and in some cases, even extraordinarily. A must read for those interested in reading about World War II from the home front.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gail Hedlund

    A great over-view of all aspects of WWII in regards to women. The good, the amazing, the not-so-great. I learned several things from this book. I recommend to those who wish to know more about the women of the WWII era.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marseydoats

    Overall I enjoyed this. It was interesting and informative. I especially liked the personal bits about the author's mother being in the Red Cross. Learned a lot about the USO that I didn't know. Lena Horne totally rocked!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Deanna Howard

    I listened to the book while on daily walks with my beagle and truly enjoyed it. I learned so much that I never knew about the women juggling the everyday new realities of home as well as those bravely signing up for roles on the front. Very well written.

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