Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Women and the Wars

 Our Hidden Pride 

Every blue moon, ok maybe more often than a blue moon, I stumble upon a female ancestor that isn’t just “strong,” or a leader, but revolutionary.  Strong women leaders often surface after the death of their husband, or during wartimes. The strong women traits traditionally are exposed while the husband was off to war and the woman was left to maintain the home, raise children, and maybe even take on a job perhaps at the factory.  But this role of women in our past is often viewed as temporary.  

But, what about our female ancestors who worked in fields of the brain?  Those who set footprints for the rest of us to safely follow?   Not to slight any of the strong Rosie ancestors of our  the past, (and there were many), keep in mind being a Rosie was only a compliment when the men were away.

We may find one or two strong women who were outed in WWI. And, we know there were women who did far more than expected to support the Revolutionary War.  And not all women were practicing the Scarlet O’Hara swoon during the Civil War.  Many of us have celebrated the polka-dotted bandanna Rosies of WWII.  We even know about the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  But, what about the others? Those who didn’t return from their temporary WWII jobs to settle in their household duties after the war? 

This is when I encourage each researcher to keep an eye for their female ancestors who worked in “fields of the brain.”  Those who attended Colleges or Universities, mastered math and science, worked in non-traditional jobs, and furthered women’s rights with the peaceful protest of “competency.”  Again I’m not slighting the women who catapulted women’s rights through literature; or, even through violence.  (Carrie Nation’s violence did invoke fear if not respect….but that’s another topic and it may not have promoted women’s rights at all, but it is worth mentioning in this All Things Woman posting.)   

As family historians and genealogists, we often caste the woman’s role aside, but someone had to be the descendents of these socially defiant women who worked in “fields of the brain” even after the war.  A few of these women were described in the recent CNN article Rediscovering WWII's female 'computers’

As a genealogists, the parents, grandparents, environments, and historical references that contributed to the unique choices of each of them is of interest.  Rosies served their country well, but women like the WWII female “computers” should be revered as our hidden pride.   

Additional Reading on Rosies:
Women Workers at the Redstone and Huntsville Arsenals   

Kathleen Brandt

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