Our War Too

American Women Against the Axis

Margaret Paton-Walsh

In the late 1930s, a number of American women—especially those allied with various peace and isolationist groups—protested against the nation's entry into World War II. While their story is fairly well known, Margaret Paton-Walsh reveals a far less familiar story of women who fervently felt that American intervention was absolutely necessary.

Paton-Walsh recounts how the United States became involved in the war, but does so through the eyes of American women who faced it as a necessary evil. Covering the period between 1935 and 1941, she examines how these women functioned as political actors-even though they were excluded from positions of power-through activism in women's organizations, informal women's networks, and even male-dominated lobbying groups.

“ . . . A good corrective to the view that Women were unaware of international politics in the years leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

—Journal of American History

“An invaluable work for anyone interested in women, war, and peace as well as the larger topic of World War II.

—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
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In the "Great Debate" over whether America should enter the war, some women favored aid to the Allies not because they hoped for war but because they hoped aid would forestall more direct U.S. involvement-but also because they believed war was preferable to a Nazi victory. Paton-Walsh shows that this activism involved some of the most prominent women of their day. Elizabeth Cutter Morrow-whose son-in-law, Charles Lindbergh, was an isolationist spokesman-supported the revision of the Neutrality Acts to allow the sale of arms to the Allies and expressed her support in a national radio broadcast. Soon other women joined this debate: Esther Brunauer of the AAUW, journalist Dorothy Thompson, and organizations like the League of Women Voters and National Women's Trade Union League broke from the pacifist tradition to advocate American aid for the Allied cause.

Focusing on the conflict in Europe, Paton-Walsh shows how these women grasped the implications of the Lend-Lease program for America's entry into the war but supported it nevertheless. By late 1941, the Women's Division of the Fight for Freedom Committee had been established; no longer merely advocating aid to Britain to keep American boys out of battle, this organization supported direct American involvement in the war as a means of stopping Nazi oppression.

While most historians have focused on women's pacifism, Paton-Walsh connects women more directly to world events and shows how those interventionists reformulated maternalist ideas to justify and explain their beliefs. Our War Too is a story of American women trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, to preserve both their principles and their peace. It expands our understanding of women as political actors and thinkers about foreign policy as it sheds new light on American public opinion over the build-up to the war.

About the Author

Margaret Paton-Walsh received her Ph.D. in modern U.S. history and American foreign policy from the University of Washington and is now studying law at Harvard University.