From the Publisher
Allows the reader to view the issue [volunteer work of USO hostesses during WWII] as part of the tapestry of society . . . provides a temporal perspective of what had happened before and suggests what might happen next.Canadian Journal of History
A well-researched and detailed account. . . . Winchell has significantly added to the historiography of gender, race, and class on the Home Front during World War II.Louisiana History
A must-read for anyone interested in the home front during World War II.Archways
Think of saddle-shoed coeds jitterbugging with the boys. The dance could be as sexually evocative then as "grinding" is now. It was all in a night's work for the thousands of young American women who volunteered to host soldiers in United Service Organizations clubs during WWII. The USO's domestic mission was to steer idle troops away from liquor, prostitutes and venereal disease, offering instead homemade cookies and wholesome smalltown girls. In constructing a portrait of wartime sexuality through the lens of the USO's American ideal of women, Winchell highlights what she views as the USO's middle-class prejudices. But she also offers studies of leadership in minority women's lobbying for such issues as canteen integration and access for women soldiers. Winchell, an assistant professor of history at Nebraska Wesleyan University, can't seem to let impressive research speak for itself, and her insightful observations are couched in the academic language of race, class, gender and the economics of women's work. The hostesses should have been the voice of this book-sometimes, they manage to be heard. 30 illus. (Nov.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This fascinating social history of gender in American culture offers an insightful look at how femininity and women's sexuality came into patriotic service during the transformative era of World War II. Focusing on how and why the "good girls" of the USO (United Service Organization) were promoted as the alternative to the bad girls warned about in posters ("You Can't Beat the Axis If You Get VD"), Winchell (history, Nebraska Wesleyan Univ.) has written an engrossing, detailed account of the women who performed the (unpaid) "emotional work" of providing comfort to soldiers at home in a time of war. Winchell often cites internal USO documents related to how management viewed the objectives of these servicemen's clubs and how they sought to model hostesses on popular and traditional middle-class feminine ideals of mom (for the senior hostesses) and the girl next door (for the junior). She interviewed 70 former hostesses (all living in Phoenix, AZ) and her analysis includes sensitive and interesting commentary on how race was an influential factor, as well as gender, when it came to the mission and methods of the USO. How did Rosie the Riveter end up as the icon of women's roles in the war, asks Winchell, when the reality was that many more mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters did their part by dancing, baking pies, darning socks, and lending a sympathetic ear? This excellent work of documentary history may make feminists cringe at women doing their patriotic duty by serving officially as idealized sexual objects, while also feeling relief that such USO servicemen's clubs could never exist today. Recommended for all libraries.