Making War, Making Women
Femininity and Duty on the American Home Front, 1941–1945
How Madison Avenue and the U.S. government promoted “ideal womanhood” during World War II
Drawing on war propaganda, popular advertising, voluminous government records, and hundreds of letters and other accounts written by women in the 1940s, Melissa A. McEuen examines how extensively women’s bodies and minds became “battlegrounds” in the U.S. fight for victory in World War II.
Women were led to believe that the nation’s success depended on their effortsâ€”not just on factory floors, but at their dressing tables, bathroom sinks, and laundry rooms. They were to fill their arsenals with lipstick, nail polish, creams, and cleansers in their battles to meet the standards of ideal womanhood touted in magazines, newspapers, billboards, posters, pamphlets and in the rapidly expanding pinup genre. Scrutinized and sexualized in new ways, women understood that their faces, clothes, and comportment would indicate how seriously they took their responsibilities as citizens. McEuen also shows that the wartime rhetoric of freedom, democracy, and postwar opportunity coexisted uneasily with the realities of a racially stratified society. The context of war created and reinforced whiteness, and McEuen explores how African Americans grappled with whiteness as representing the true American identity.
Using perspectives of cultural studies and feminist theory, Making War, Making Women offers a broad look at how women on the American home front grappled with a political culture that used their bodies in service of the war effort.
Soviet partisans in World War II
When the Wehrmacht rolled into the Soviet Union in World War II, it got more than it bargained for. Notwithstanding the Red Army's retreat, Soviet citizens fought fiercely against German occupiers, engaging in raids, sabotage, and intelligence gathering—largely without any oversight from Stalin and his iron-fisted rule.
Kenneth Slepyan provides an enlightening social and political history of the Soviet partisan movement, a people's army of irregulars fighting behind enemy lines. These insurgents included not only civilians—many of them women—but also stranded Red Army soldiers, national minorities, and even former collaborators. While others have documented the military contributions of the movement, Slepyan is the first to describe it as a social phenomenon and to reveal how its members were both challenged and transformed by the crucible of war.
By tracing the movement's origins, internal squabbles, and evolution throughout the war, Slepyan shows that people who suddenly had the autonomy to act on their own came to rethink the Stalinist regime. He assesses how partisan initiative and self-reliance competed with and countered the demands of state control and how social identities influenced relations among partisans, as well as between partisans and Soviet authorities. Slepyan has trapped newly opened Soviet archives, as well as wartime radio broadcasts and Communist Party publications and memoirs, to depict the partisans as agents actively pursuing their own agendas. His book gives us a picture of their day-to-day struggle that was previously unknown to all but those few who personally survived the experience, paying special attention to questions of nationality, ethnicity, and gender to illuminate the sociopolitical relations within this diverse group. Through these varied accounts, he demonstrates that Soviet citizens reinterpreted Stalinism and the Soviet experience in the context of total war.
Offering numerous fresh insights into the partisans' multifaceted relationship with the state, Slepyan's book reveals the ways in which the war simultaneously reinforced and undermined both Stalinism and the Soviet system. Ultimately, his study rescues the Soviet partisans from obscurity to depict the complexity of their lives and underscore their vital contributions to the defense of their homeland.
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