'Since You Went Away' - The War Letters of America's Women

Judy Litoff and David C. Smith sift through the hopes and fears of America's home front in this selection and commentary of letters they have assembled from wives, mothers and sweethearts during the Second World War.

Early in 1943, Max Lerner, the well-known author and journalist, writing for the New York newspaper PM, predicted that 'when the classic work on the history of women comes to be written, the biggest force for change in their lives will turn out to have been war. Curiously, war produces more dislocation in the lives of women who stay at home than of men who go off to fight'.

With the renewed interest in American women's history which has occurred over the last quarter of a century, most historians interested in women and the Second World War have addressed the implication of Lerner's statement by either explicitly or implicitly asking the question: Did the War serve as a major force for change in the lives of American women? Our reading of approximately 25,000 letters written by 400 women has led us to conclude that the events of the War had a dramatic and far-reaching effect upon the mothers, step-mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, wives, sweethearts, daughters, and female friends of the sixteen million Americans who served in the military during the Second World War.

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