From the Battlefront to the Bridal Suite: Media Coverage of British War Brides, 1942-1946

Article excerpt

Friedman, Barbara G. From the Battlefront to the Bridal Suite: Media Coverage of British War Brides, 1942-1946. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007. 154 pp. $29.95.

Some 70,000 British women married the dashing American soldiers who blanketed their nation during World War II. This slim volume, a richly contextualized if somewhat abbreviated account of a slice of women's life during the war, adds a fresh twist to the growing body of scholarship that illuminates women's role in wartime.

Lest you think the topic smacks of a romance novel, understand that the sole commonality found among news coverage was that all of the periodicals surveyed blamed women for spreading venereal disease, which skyrocketed as the American forces rose to 1.65 million men by the eve of D-Day. U.S. military service magazines warned soldiers away from British women by framing them as predators out for the Americans' relatively posh pay, while between the lines the magazines encouraged male promiscuity. As Yank headlined a 1942 story, "Don't Promise Her Anything-Marriage Outside the U.S. Is Out."

Friedman, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina, skillfully weaves framing theory, textual analysis, and feminist scholarship to argue that well-entrenched assumptions about gender permeated every angle of war-bride coverage in U.S. and British periodicals. She compared two American and two British service magazines; the New York Times, The Times of London, and the London Telegraph; and two women's magazines, one American and one British. She also offers war-bride stories from Ladies Home Journal, Life, Reader's Digest, and Time. The media accounts are augmented by letters and archival materials from places such as the Imperial War Museum in London, the American Red Cross, and the Home Intelligence Reports of the National Archives in London.

Friedman's findings support earlier scholarship that argues "ideals concerning gender are closely related to notions of political identification and citizenship." Those notions often were paradoxical, such as the British government's massive media campaign encouraging women to socialize with U.S. soldiers as a patriotic duty. At the same time, public discourse admonished women to remain chaste until British men returned home. In fact, as many as 100,000 American soldiers a month were guests in British homes, and others were billeted in the homes of married women whose husbands were fighting overseas. …