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Good girls, good food, good fun : the story of USO hostesses during World War II / Meghan K. Winchell.

By: Winchell, Meghan K.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookSeries: Gender & American culture: Publisher: Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c2008Description: 255 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.ISBN: 9780807832370 (cloth : alk. paper); 0807832375 (cloth : alk. paper).Subject(s): United Service Organizations (U.S.) | Soldiers -- Recreation -- United States -- History | World War, 1939-1945 -- War work -- United States | World War, 1939-1945 -- Women -- United States | Women -- United States -- Social conditions -- 20th centuryAdditional physical formats: Online version:: Good girls, good food, good fun.DDC classification: 940.53082
Contents:
To make the boys feel at home : senior hostesses and gendered citizenship -- The loveliest girls in the nation -- Wartime socializing -- Nice girls didn't, period : junior hostesses and sexual service -- Courtship and competition in the USO dance hall -- Conclusion -- Appendix : Interview/questionnaire template.
Summary: Throughout World War II, when Saturday nights came around, servicemen and hostesses happily forgot the war for a little while as they danced together in USO clubs, which served as havens of stability in a time of social, moral, and geographic upheaval. Meghan Winchell demonstrates that in addition to boosting soldier morale, the USO acted as an architect of the gender roles and sexual codes that shaped the "greatest generation." Combining archival research with extensive firsthand accounts from among the hundreds of thousands of female USO volunteers, Winchell shows how the organization both reflected and shaped 1940s American society at large. The USO had hoped that respectable feminine companionship would limit venereal disease rates in the military. To that end, Winchell explains, USO recruitment practices characterized white middle-class women as sexually respectable, thus implying that the sexual behavior of working-class women and women of color was suspicious. In response, women of color sought to redefine the USO's definition of beauty and respectability, challenging the USO's vision of a home front that was free of racial, gender, and sexual conflict. Despite clashes over class and racial ideologies of sex and respectability, Winchell finds that most hostesses benefited from the USO's chaste image. In exploring the USO's treatment of female volunteers, Winchell not only brings the hostesses' stories to light but also supplies a crucial missing piece for understanding the complex ways in which the war both destabilized and restored certain versions of social order.--From publisher description.
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Item type Current location Call number Status Date due Barcode
Book University of Texas At Tyler
Stacks - 3rd Floor
D810 .E8 W56 2008 (Browse shelf) Available 0000001961572

"A Caravan book"--T.p. verso.

Includes bibliographical references (p. [221]-238) and index.

To make the boys feel at home : senior hostesses and gendered citizenship -- The loveliest girls in the nation -- Wartime socializing -- Nice girls didn't, period : junior hostesses and sexual service -- Courtship and competition in the USO dance hall -- Conclusion -- Appendix : Interview/questionnaire template.

Throughout World War II, when Saturday nights came around, servicemen and hostesses happily forgot the war for a little while as they danced together in USO clubs, which served as havens of stability in a time of social, moral, and geographic upheaval. Meghan Winchell demonstrates that in addition to boosting soldier morale, the USO acted as an architect of the gender roles and sexual codes that shaped the "greatest generation." Combining archival research with extensive firsthand accounts from among the hundreds of thousands of female USO volunteers, Winchell shows how the organization both reflected and shaped 1940s American society at large. The USO had hoped that respectable feminine companionship would limit venereal disease rates in the military. To that end, Winchell explains, USO recruitment practices characterized white middle-class women as sexually respectable, thus implying that the sexual behavior of working-class women and women of color was suspicious. In response, women of color sought to redefine the USO's definition of beauty and respectability, challenging the USO's vision of a home front that was free of racial, gender, and sexual conflict. Despite clashes over class and racial ideologies of sex and respectability, Winchell finds that most hostesses benefited from the USO's chaste image. In exploring the USO's treatment of female volunteers, Winchell not only brings the hostesses' stories to light but also supplies a crucial missing piece for understanding the complex ways in which the war both destabilized and restored certain versions of social order.--From publisher description.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

This fascinating social history of gender in American culture offers an insightful look at how femininity and women's sexuality came into patriotic service during the transformative era of World War II. Focusing on how and why the "good girls" of the USO (United Service Organization) were promoted as the alternative to the bad girls warned about in posters ("You Can't Beat the Axis If You Get VD"), Winchell (history, Nebraska Wesleyan Univ.) has written an engrossing, detailed account of the women who performed the (unpaid) "emotional work" of providing comfort to soldiers at home in a time of war. Winchell often cites internal USO documents related to how management viewed the objectives of these servicemen's clubs and how they sought to model hostesses on popular and traditional middle-class feminine ideals of mom (for the senior hostesses) and the girl next door (for the junior). She interviewed 70 former hostesses (all living in Phoenix, AZ) and her analysis includes sensitive and interesting commentary on how race was an influential factor, as well as gender, when it came to the mission and methods of the USO. How did Rosie the Riveter end up as the icon of women's roles in the war, asks Winchell, when the reality was that many more mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters did their part by dancing, baking pies, darning socks, and lending a sympathetic ear? This excellent work of documentary history may make feminists cringe at women doing their patriotic duty by serving officially as idealized sexual objects, while also feeling relief that such USO servicemen's clubs could never exist today. Recommended for all libraries.--Theresa Kintz, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

CHOICE Review

With the exception of the US Civil War, the American experience in WW II has been the closest US citizenry has come to engaging in total war. Accordingly, mountains of books have been devoted to exploring the collective experiences of women in the war-driven economy as well as women enlisted to serve the war effort in uniform. Winchell (Nebraska Wesleyan Univ.) adds to understanding the war's impact on women with her examination of volunteer hostesses for the United Service Organization (USO). Across the country, the USO-operated centers provided structured recreational activities and wholesome entertainment for soldiers. Older women served as senior hostesses and monitored the actions and behavior of soldiers, offering matronly advice and adult supervision. Younger women volunteered as junior hostesses. Unlike those women who became "Rosie the Riveters" or members of the Women's Army Corps, USO volunteers were encouraged to maintain their sense of femininity to help bolster the morale of the troops. Winchell's lively narrative relies on USO records as well as oral history interviews with former hostesses. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. B. Miller University of Cincinnati

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