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★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Introduction Rosie the Riveter remains the ubiquitous symbol of World War II’s female patriot. In the popular imagery of the ‘‘Good War,’’ Rosie arguably stands second only to the courageous soldiers raising the American flag at Iwo Jima. Today, the War Department’s depiction of Rosie peddling a ‘‘We Can Do It!’’ attitude, with her pouty lips, enviably long eyelashes, and oversized muscular biceps, graces posters, note cards, magnets, coasters, and even pot holders. The proliferation and endurance of this image might prompt one to conclude that immediately following President Franklin Roosevelt’s ‘‘A Day That Will Live in Infamy’’ speech, hordes of American women rushed to the shipyards, seized riveting guns, and went at it. In truth, the majority of American women did not enter the industrial labor force during the war. They found Rosie’s image daunting. Many of these women were like junior uso hostess Nancy Brown. She surmised that hostessing at the Hollywood Canteen ‘‘was what I could do. I really was not Rosie the Riveter. I was not one of those women who could go out there and work on an assembly line.’’ Instead, Nancy worked as a secretary, and in her view hostessing ‘‘was the ideal way to do my part in the war effort.’’∞ She was not alone. Historical scholarship has shown how the state and media mobilized women into ‘‘men’s’’ roles, including soldier and industrial worker, during World War II,≤ but little work has been done on the ways in which quasi-state organizations such as the uso mobilized them to perform ‘‘women’s’’ work that did not challenge gender norms. uso hostesses extended private acts of nurturing and caretaking to the public sphere and performed them in uso clubs and canteens. In doing so, they made their usually private work visible and rendered unpaid yet vital services as mothers and sweethearts to the state and the military. This gendered labor helped to humanize the military experience for servicemen. This study reveals how tens of thousands of uso hostesses like Nancy conducted work that helped to maintain the role of the virtuous woman in this time of crisis. ★ 2 ★ INTRODUCTION In the United States, women who volunteered at uso clubs offered wholesome recreation to millions of enlisted soldiers and sailors outside camp in their off-duty hours. It is likely that many servicemen spent their entire wartime experiences in the vicinity of a uso club, because of the 16 million who served in the military, 25 percent remained in the United States throughout the war.≥ The uso grew quickly to meet the recreational needs of soldiers and sailors. Prior to the U.S. entrance into the war, six of the organizations that had provided assistance to U.S. troops during World War I—the Young Men’s Christian Association (ymca), the Young Women’s Christian Association (ywca), the Salvation Army, the Jewish Welfare Board, the National Catholic Community Service (nccs), and the Traveler’s Aid Society— combined to form the United Service Organizations (uso) for National Defense early in 1941.∂ By September 1941, civilian volunteers were lending their time and talents to 89 uso clubs. One year later, the uso was opening two new clubs or service programs every day, with a total of 967 in operation.∑ At its height in 1944, the uso operated 3,035 clubs and canteens that assisted 1 million people in the United States each day.∏ The uso, therefore, played a central role in constructing the wartime experience for servicemen as well as for women who volunteered as hostesses. The uso was a broad-based organization that attracted middle-income and wealthy volunteers, just as it advanced the social and cultural agenda of those who considered themselves to be part of the elusive middle class. ‘‘Middle class’’ as a distinct category is slippery and difficult to identify. Persons who both earned and aspired to earn middle incomes and those who identified with them created a middle-class culture that dominated the United States from the late nineteenth century onward.π Professionals and managers made up the core of this modern middle class. These white-collar workers held a variety of positions, from clerical to managerial. Whether their income put them in the middle or not, they considered themselves of the middle class by virtue of working in offices as opposed to factories. A middle-class image also included a husband/father who earned a family wage, along with a wife/ mother who managed...


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