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Women and World War II

Women were key to the success of the Allies’ success in winning World War II.  Here are some suggestions to help you explore these brave and indomitable women further.

My eighth grade English teacher, Nancy Castellano, and I got in touch 40 years after I was student!  She has published a fascinating book about what life as a member of the WAVES was like.  The Waves were “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.”

I highly recommend this book–it has all sorts of details about women working for the war effort and is filled with photos. This is the cover of the book.

Notice that Nancy has inscribed it to me:  “Jan. 16, 2012 To Susan–my former English student at Frelinghuysen School.  ‘Smooth Sailing!’  Nancy Lynch Castellano.”  Look here for more about Nancy.

From the BBC, here you can find out about British women’s volunteer organizations.  Be sure to look under “Forces” to the right of the main article on this page and click on each individual force, such as British Army or Merchant Navy.  You’ll find out about how these women supported the war effort.

You can find out about the Women’s Auxiliary Service at the Imperial War Museums website.  It is superb as are the museums! Do visit them if you go to England.

I met Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett at the wonderful Story Circle Conference–a group for women who write memoirs.  Matilda and Kendra have a website called Rosie’s Daughters.

That name is in honor of Rosie the Riveter–the emblematic woman riveter or factory worker during World War II.  Rosie’s daughters are those women who were BORN during World War II and how their generation helped bring about societal and cultural change more recently.  Matilda and Kendra are utterly delightful and their book Rosie’s Daughters has won a number of awards.

Here’s a real “Rosie the Riveter” from World War II. Photo courtesy of Clarity Films photostream.

Joan worked in a factory in June 1941.  It was the Burry Biscuit Company.  They made army rations (food).  Read about it in her book.  Here’s an excerpt:

Monday June 16, 1941, Age 18

Well—work today.  Joan, the little factory girl.  Only I wasn’t today—Inspector Wehlen, call me.  I inspected millions of army ration cans—for the USA.  Defensive work.  Caught myself humming the “Star-Spangled Banner” and reflected it was the same as making munitions. 

The Library of Congress has amazing photos in color of women at work.  Look here to see women operating a hand drill, inspecting howitzer parts, and advertising a salvage campaign to encourage people to ration and recycle in support of the war effort!

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