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Norah’s American twin

Many thanks to Alison Twells for this lovely tribute to my mom’s book–she is working on her great aunt’s wartime diary — Joan’s English “twin.”

Socks for the Boys!

‘Got my hair set today. In my opinion, if I had hollower cheeks, I’d be a perfect double for Garbo.’ This is not Norah Hodgkinson writing, but fourteen year-old Joan Wehlen from Illinois, in her diary entry for 3rd May 1937.Home Front Girl

The daughter of Swedish immigrants, Joan was born in December 1922, and so was two-and-a-half years older than Norah. Like Norah, she was from a socialist family. She became a scholarship girl at a college attached to Chicago University, where she went on to study anthropology as an undergraduate in the 1940s.

One of the delights of discovering Home Front Girl are the similarities in Joan’s and Norah’s interests, preoccupations and the general giddy tone of some of their diary entries. This shouldn’t surprise us, of course, but I enjoyed all the more Joan’s comments about school and family life, films and classical literature, the colour of her lipstick, her crushes on boys (‘BBB in B’: the Beautiful Blue-eyed Boy in Biology).


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