Since You Went Away: World War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front / Edition 1

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Overview

"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.]

"From a fascinating collection of letters, filled with wonderfully distinctive human stories, Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith have shpaed a rare and brilliant book that transports the reader back in time to an unforgettable era."—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.

"This is a wonderful volume, full of admirable women struggling in a difficult situation, doing their best for their families and their country. Ah, the memories it brings back! Highly recommended for those who lived through the war, and for those who want to understand it."—Stephen E. Ambrose, author of Eisenhower and D-Day, June 6, 1944

"Offering a remarkable view into the lives of ordinary women during wartime, this book will enlighten and catch at the hearts of general readers and cause historians to reconsider how women experienced World War II."-Susan M. Hartmann, author of The Home Front and Beyond.

"From among 25,000 of an estimated six billion letters sent overseas during World War II, Litoff and Smith have culled and skillfully edited a sampling by 400 American women. These letters, starting with one to a seaman wounded at Pearl Harbor, are compelling documents of home-front life in varied ethnic, cultural, and financial milieus. Tragic, touching, and funny, the correspondence is full of prosaic news and gossip about jobs and neighbors, along with accounts of births and intimate allusions to love-making. The stress of separation was intensified for women whose loved ones were hospitalized, or imprisoned as either conscientious objectors or security risks. Some women wrote General MacArthur and others for news of missing men or to obtain details of their deaths. Many of these heartrending documents also express acceptance-and even pride-in the sacrifices required by war."—Publishers Weekly.

"Other scholars of WW II have published letters written home by servicemen, but this is the first collection sampling the letters written by sisters, sweethearts, wives, and mothers, saved by thousands of servicemen. Chapters are organized around themes that were important to these women: courtship, marriage, motherhood, work, sacrifices. . . . What women tell readers in these letters about their concerns and their wartime feelings will cause historians [readers?] to rethink what has been written about the homefront."—Choice.

"Despite the popular appeal of Rosie the Riveter, nine out of ten mothers with children under six were not in the labor force, which helps to account for the vast outpouring of mail from the home front to 'our boys' in the European and Pacific theaters. Some couples wrote every day for four years. This is the rich historic documentation that the authors have drawn upon to create a panoramic pastiche of indefatigable, energetic, patriotic female letter writers in the war years. . . . One is struck by the hard-headed practicality of many of the letters-stories of plucky, sometimes even grumpy, coping. There are letters of growing independence, with strong and at times explicit indication that the boyfriend or husband will be facing a very different woman upon his return from the one he 'knew' when he disembarked for his own, often terrible, venture. . . . Every war leaves mothers with broken hearts. What this volume most remarkably demonstrates is just how prepared American women on the home front were for that dread eventuality."—Jean Bethke Elshtain in the Journal of American History.

"Fascinating and often heartbreaking letters. . . . The letters illuminate a time when sex roles were first showing the changes that would culminate in the women's movement. 'I must admit I'm not exactly the same girl you left,' Edith Speert wrote to her husband, Victor, in 1945. 'I'm twice as independent as I used t be, and I sometimes think I've become hard as nails. I don't think my changes will affect our relationship.'. . . In the end, it is the small human dramas in these letters that stand out. Anne Gudis, miffed to distraction by her soldier-swain Sam Kramer, writes what may be the shortest Dear John on record: 'Mr. Kramer: Go to hell! With love, Anne Gudis.' A woman working at a Honolulu nightclub assures a pilot that she'll wait for him-until she's 20. 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?'"—Smithsonian.

"'They made it possible for me to retain my sanity in an insane world,' wrote one pilot about the letters his wife sent him throughout World War II. The letters contained in this collection explain the soldier's sentiments. Whether full of passionate longing for a missing sweetheart or merely detailing domestic gossip, the letters offer a rich introduction to how American women experienced the war. Since military authorities ordered soldiers not to keep any letters written them by their loved ones, the authors have done a magnificent service in obtaining letters that soldiers either surreptitiously hid or whose authors copied them before sending them on."—Library Journal.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History
One is struck by the hard-headed practicality of many of the letters—stories of plucky, sometimes even grumpy, coping. There are letters of growing independence, with strong and at times explicit indication that the boyfriend or husband will be facing a very different woman upon his return. . . . Every war leaves mothers with broken hearts. What this volume most remarkably demonstrates is just how prepared American women on the home front were for that dread eventuality.
Smithsonian
Fascinating and often heartbreaking, the letters illuminate a time when sex roles were first showing the changes that would culminate in the women's movement. . . . In the end, it is the small human dramas in these letters that stand out. Anne Gudis, miffed to distraction by her soldier-swain Sam Kramer, writes what may be the shortest Dear John on record: 'Mr. Kramer: Go to hell! With love, Anne Gudis.' A woman working at a Honolulu nightclub assures a pilot that she'll wait for him—until she's 20.

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?

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From among 25,000 of an estimated six billion letters sent overseas during World War II, history professors Litoff (Bryant College, Rhode Island) and Smith (University of Maine) have culled and skillfully edited a sampling by 400 American women. These letters, starting with one to a seaman wounded at Pearl Harbor, are compelling documents of home-front life in varied ethnic, cultural and financial milieus. Tragic, touching and funny, the correspondence is full of prosaic news and gossip about jobs and neighbors, along with accounts of births and intimate allusions to love-making. The stress of separation was intensified for women whose loved ones were hospitalized, or imprisoned as either conscientious objectors or security risks. Some women wrote General MacArthur and others for news of missing men or to obtain details of their deaths. Many of these heartrending documents also express acceptance--and even pride--in the sacrifices required by war. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Library Journal
``They made it possible for me to retain my sanity in an insane world,'' wrote one pilot about the letters his wife sent him throughout World War II. The letters contained in this collection explain the soldier's sentiments. Whether full of passionate longing for a missing sweetheart or merely detailing domestic gossip, the letters offer a rich introduction to how American women experienced the war. Since military authorities ordered soldiers not to keep any letters written them by their loved ones, the authors have done a magnificent service in obtaining letters that soldiers either surreptitiously hid or whose authors copied them before sending them on. The ``G.I.'' generation seems to be growing aware of its mortality, and two couple's collections have appeared recently (Robert and James Eastons's Love and War, LJ 4/15/91; and Charles and Barbara Woodall's Miss You, LJ 4/1/590). Because of its inclusiveness and sensitivity, however, most libraries will want to buy this.-- Ann H. Sullivan, Tompkins Cortland Community Coll., Dryden, N.Y.
From the Publisher

"The letters offer a rich introduction of how American women experienced the war....The authors have done a magnificent in obtaining [these] letters."--Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700607143
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Edition description: REISSUE
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 310
  • Sales rank: 1,017,710
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Editors:
Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith are the authors of Miss You: The World War II Letters of Barbara Wooddall Taylor and Charles E. Taylor and the editors of Dear Boys: World War II Letters From a Woman Back Home.

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Table of Contents

Foreword

Acknowledgments

1. Don't You Know There's a War On?

2. Courtship by Mail

3. War Brides

4. War Wives

5. Be With Him at Every Mail Call: A Pictorial Essay

6. I Took a War Job

7. For the Duration

8. The Price of Victory

9. Why We Fought

Chronology of World War II Events

For Further Reading

Index

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