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Making War, Making Women: Femininity and Duty on the American Home Front, 1941-1945 Paperback – February 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


This is the book cultural historians of women and World War II have been waiting for. . . . The writing is polished and fast paced. The evidence is captivating.

(Meghan K. Winchell author of Good Girls, Good Food, Good Fun: The Story of USO Hostesses during World War II)

McEuen affords us a vivid and discerning tour of the American female body politic in World War II. As she makes abundantly clear, the mobilization of women was accompanied throughout by campaigns designed to insure that Rosie the Riveter was no less attentive to her lipstick than to her rivet gun.

(Robert B. Westbrook author of Why We Fought: Forging American Obligations in World War II)

Using beauty as a lens through which to understand wartime culture really works in McEuen's capable hands. We see women as consumers, as war workers, as active agents as well as objects of others' desires (consumer desires, sexual desires, war-waging desires). McEuen writes well and clearly, integrating scholarly work with a light touch . . . A significant contribution to scholarship on women's history, beauty culture, the history of beauty, and wartime culture.

(Jennifer Scanlon author of Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown)

Move over Rosie the Riveter! The pencil skirts, powdered faces, and polished nails of women on the WWII home front take central stage in this elegant and sophisticated history of how government and business turned looking good into a patriotic act. Women make femininity, Melissa McEuen underscores, not completely on their own terms but rather in light of cultural representations, racial and class ideals, and social conventions that are as manufactured as the products available to beautify and shape our bodies.

(Eileen Boris Hull Professor and Chair, Department of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara)

One might argue that not since Maureen Honey’s 1984 book, Creating Rosie the Riverter: Class, Gender, and Propaganda during World War II, has an author examined wartime femininity and its construction on such an all encompassing scale. Making War, Making Women will appeal to serious students of gender, military, and consumer history alike.

(Melissa Ziobro On Point)

In this well-written, compelling book Melissa A. McEuen, a historian of photography, explores the connections between women, appearances, and power to illustrate the gendered meaning of patriotic duty during World War II.

(Theresa Kaminski Journal of American History)

McEuen challenges old assumptions about the role of women and the contributions they made to home front life during WWII. The war years for women, McEuen contends, involved more than the government’s persuading middle-class married women to don factory overalls.

(B. Miller CHOICE)

About the Author

Melissa A. McEuen is a professor of history at Transylvania University. She is the author of "Seeing America: Women Photographers between the Wars," which received the 2000 Emily Toth Award for the best single work in women s issues from the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association."

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