Women against the Good War: Conscientious Objection and Gender on the American Home Front, 1941-1947

By Rachel Waltner Goossen | Go to book overview
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Am I Worth Dying For?

Few Americans questioned the gender-laden stereotype that war compelled men to go forth and fight to protect their women and children. 1 The 10 May 1942 issue of the New York Times Magazine featured an article about Civilian Public Service, which a year earlier had opened its first camp at Patapsco, Maryland. The writer recounted his conversation with a young CPS man named Walt, who spoke of Mennonite farming practices and the woman he wanted to marry. The journalist responded: "Look, Walt, you have this harrow and girl and the farm crop your brothers are bringing in. Whose job is it to protect these things you own and this girl you want?"2 An Illinois man who detested the presence of a newly established CPS camp near his home made the same point, though more bitterly: "When this bloody conflict is over . . . this gang of traitors can return home hale and hardy to their cars, their girls and wives, to their good American life while the parents of true Americans can look ahead to a life of broken hearts."3

Ultimately, Americans would sacrifice for war aims the lives of 405,399 sons and brothers. Even more Americans -- 670,846 -- would be wounded. Civilians spent the years of war burdened with worry about their loved ones. The notion of wartime sacrifice became imbued with theological meaning as Americans at home identified emotionally with soldiers abroad. Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly carried in her purse this prayer:

Dear Lord
Lest I continue
My complacent way

-29-

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