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Library Journal Review
In 1914, World War I was declared. Four years later, the Allies emerged victorious, and the economic and political landscape of the world changed forever. A major force that contributed to the success of wartime efforts and rapid social change in America was the advent of female laborers. Dumenil tells the story of the "new" women who arose during the Great War, both exploring the contributions of women working at home and overseas. Through her analysis, she defines the American woman's contribution to the success of that war, illustrating the effects on women's lives and roles in America. The author focuses on the diversity of women workers and analyzes the parts played by women of various racial backgrounds and economic status. The epilog expands these analyses, summarizing the social unrest caused by the undefined position of women postwar while also investigating the misconception that the war drastically increased social equality for American women. Verdict This unique and previously unexplored view into a rarely examined history will be an excellent complement to Lettie Gavin's American Women in World War I: They Also Served. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Marian Mays, Washington Talking Book & Braille Lib., Seattle © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Traditional historians suggest that WW I altered the lives of US women in ways leading to a consensus referred to as "the new woman." Historian Dumenil (emer., Occidental College; coauthor, Through Women's Eyes: An American History with Documents, 4th ed., 2015) agrees with this interpretation, but she emphasizes that the "new woman" was active during the Progressive Era in advance of the war. Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett all bore the mantle before the US entered the war in 1917. But the war enhanced women's preexisting activism, offering them greater job and political opportunities as well as equal rights and a central role in American life. With an emphasis on African American women, the author highlights the ways that these resourceful individuals proved their patriotism in the workplace, unions, suffrage, and the public square during this period. Of particular importance is Dumenil's analysis of women's roles in films that presented them as independent, heroic women, undergirding the concept of "new woman." Dated but a helpful companion read is Barbara J. Steinson's American Women's Activism in World War I (CH, Oct'82). Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. --Paul D. Travis, Texas Woman's University