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"Last night Mel and I were talking about some of the adjustments we'll have to make to our husbands' return. I must admit I'm not exactly the same girl you left—I'm twice as independent as I used to be and to top it off, I sometimes think I've become 'hard as nails'....Also—more and more I've been living exactly as I want to...I do as I damn please." These tough words from the wife of a soldier show that World War II changed much more than just international politics. Many books have been written about those who fought and suffered in Europe and Asia during World War II, but less is known about the private sphere of women on the home front in the United States. With Since You Went Away, Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith illuminate this hidden corner of our history.
Drawn from a large archive of wartime correspondence, Since You Went Away collects hundreds of letters written by women of all backgrounds and ages from all over the United States: from Midwestern farms to the Hawaiian Islands, from young girls to anxious mothers. The letters are sometimes touching, sometimes anguished, and always packed with intimate glimpses of the World War II era. With men on the frontlines, women took to repairing cars, balancing budgets, and responding with imagination to all kinds of hardships and wartime shortages ("I stopped at the Piggly Wiggly but could not get fresh meat of any kind, so found that Spam fried in butter made a very tasty Easter dinner."). An entire section is devoted to courtship, so much of which took place through the mail, and another chapter concentrates on letters written by women about their experiences at work ("The more I see of war plants the more I believe that they're dragging this damn war out as long as possible on purpose...here it seems as tho' they have so much money they don't know what to do with it."). Nor does this collection spare the pain women felt upon learning about the loss of their husbands, lovers, or sons. A pictorial essay gives readers a further window into the war, displaying images, cartoons, and posters. One poster reads: "Be With Him at Every Mail Call," giving an idea of just how important letters were to the men and women of this time.
In Since You Went Away we find letters by factory workers, farmers, and nurses, letters written to husbands, brothers, and even a series to General MacArthur. For each thematic section the editors include a brief introduction, and a capsule portrait of each woman and the man to whom she wrote accompanies the letters. These letters capture both the most intimate details in a woman's life, and the great transformations which society at large was undergoing.
A fascinating portrait of America during World War II, based on women's letters from the home front. Since You Went Away is drawn from the authors' collection of more than 25,000 letters by American women of all backgrounds and ages from all over the U.S. Includes a pictorial essay of war-time cartoons, posters, and other images. 32 halftones.
The wife of an Air Corps navigator reads in a news story that only 15 of 1,500 Allied bombers were lost in a raid over Europe and later learns that her husband died in one of the 15. And a grieving mother whose son died in the Pacific asks Gen. Douglas MacArthur, in desperation, 'Please general he was a good boy, wasn't he? Did he die a hard death?