The best books about how women helped win World War II

Merrill J. Davies Author Of Becoming Jestina
By Merrill J. Davies

Who am I?

After teaching high school English for thirty-one years, I retired and began my second career in writing. I have published five novels and one collection of poetry. When I met Jane Tucker in 1974, she became a good friend, fellow church member, and my dental hygienist. I had no idea she had worked as a welder on Liberty Ships during World War II when she was only sixteen years old. After I learned this in 2012, I began my journey into learning all about the Rosies during World War II and writing my fourth novel Becoming Jestina. Jane’s story is an amazing one, and I still talk to her regularly.


I wrote...

Becoming Jestina

By Merrill J. Davies,

Book cover of Becoming Jestina

What is my book about?

Sixteen-year-old Jessie Thompson reluctantly moves with her mother and sister to Savannah, Georgia, in the summer of 1943 to work as a welder on Liberty Ships. Her main goal is to survive long enough to return to Alabama and finish high school. But will she be able to survive when tragedy strikes and she has to learn how to “weld” her life back together amid the uncertainties of war? The novel Becoming Jestina is a fascinating account of one of the most important developments in the quest of American women for equal employment opportunities.

The books I picked & why

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The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

By Denise Kiernan,

Book cover of The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Why this book?

A New York Times bestseller, this incredible true story tells about the top-secret World War II town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there unknowingly to help build the atomic bomb. While in college in Eastern Kentucky, I was well-acquainted with a man who had worked at Oak Ridge, so I was especially interested in Kiernan’s story. I became aware of this book while writing my novel.

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

By Denise Kiernan,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Girls of Atomic City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller, now available in paperback—an incredible true story of the top-secret World War II town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there unknowingly to help build the atomic bomb.

“The best kind of nonfiction: marvelously reported, fluidly written, and a remarkable story...As meticulous and brilliant as it is compulsively readable.” —Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City

At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, and consumed more electricity than New York City, yet it was shrouded in such secrecy that it did not…


Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory

By Constance Bowman Reid, Clara Marie Allen (illustrator),

Book cover of Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory

Why this book?

Since I taught school for thirty-one years, this book was especially fascinating to me because it involved two young teachers spending their summer in 1943 working on a production line at a San Diego bomber plant. It enlightened me significantly on how difficult it often was for women during that time to be accepted in what was usually an exclusively male world of work.

Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory

By Constance Bowman Reid, Clara Marie Allen (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slacks and Calluses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1943 two spirited young teachers decided to do their part for the war effort by spending their summer vacation working the swing shift on a B-24 production line at a San Diego bomber plant. Entering a male-dominated realm of welding torches and bomb bays, they learned to use tools that they had never seen before, live with aluminum shavings in their hair, and get along with supervisors and coworkers from all walks of life. 
   
   They also learned that wearing their factory slacks on the street caused men to treat them in a way for which their "dignified schoolteacher-hood" hadn't…


Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II

By Emily Yellin,

Book cover of Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II

Why this book?

I recommend this book because it gives a broader picture of the women who changed the way women participate in society forever. It wasn’t just building bombs, liberty ships, and planes that women had a part in. It was everything! When I’ve talked to women who lived during that time, and when I read this book, I realized how many ways women changed during that period of history.

Our Mothers' War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II

By Emily Yellin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Our Mothers' War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Our Mothers' War is a stunning and unprecedented portrait of women during World War II, a war that forever transformed the way women participate in American society.

Never before has the vast range of women's experiences during this pivotal era been brought together in one book. Now, Our Mothers' War re-creates what American women from all walks of life were doing and thinking, on the home front and abroad. These heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking accounts of the women we have known as mothers, aunts, and grandmothers reveal facets of their lives that have usually remained unmentioned and unappreciated.

Our Mothers'…


On the Swing Shift: Building Liberty Ships in Savannah

By Tony Cope,

Book cover of On the Swing Shift: Building Liberty Ships in Savannah

Why this book?

I recommend this book because it not only helped me understand the role of women during the war, but also the whole culture of Savannah, Georgia, during that time. Tony Cope was a young child in Savannah during World War II and was very familiar with the Southeastern Shipyards. When he returned as an adult and realized that most people in the city did not even know the shipyards had existed, he was determined to make sure that part of Savannah’s history wasn’t lost. His interviews with those who had worked in the shipyards are fascinating and enlightening.

On the Swing Shift: Building Liberty Ships in Savannah

By Tony Cope,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Swing Shift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During World War II eighty-eight of the almost three thousand Liberty ships built in America were launched in Savannah, Georgia. Without Liberty ships, the Battle of the Atlantic might have been lost.

Few remember the Liberty ships today; fewer remember the shipyard or that the Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation was the largest industry ever located there. The land on which this shipyard stood is now derelict. Thousands drive by it every day and have no idea of the great contribution to the war effort that was made on that site.

This social history tells the story of the men and women…


Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II

By Penny Colman,

Book cover of Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II

Why this book?

No list of books about women’s work during World War II would be complete without Penny Coleman’s book. If you just want an overall picture of how eighteen million women, many of whom had never before held a job, entered the workforce in 1942-45 to help the US fight World War II, then this is the book for you! The book is illustrated with black and white photographs. It is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II

By Penny Colman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rosie the Riveter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Illustrated with black-and-white photographs. When America's men went off to war in 1942, millions of women were recruited, through posters and other propaganda, to work at non-traditional jobs.  In defense plants, factories, offices, and everywhere else workers were needed, they were--for the first time--well paid and financially independent.  But eventually the war ended, and the government and industries that had once persuaded them to work for the war effort now instructed them to return home and take care of their husbands and children.  Based on interviews and original research by noted historian Penny Colman, Rosie the Riveter shows young readers…


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Interested in World War 2, Georgia (USA), and war?

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