World War II marked a turning point in the role of women in the workforce. While their husbands were off fighting in the war, women took on the industrial labor and other jobs typically viewed as men’s work.
They also took roles in the war effort, and it is this part of history that author Jeane Slone has chosen to document in her historical fiction trilogy consisting of the novels “She was an American Spy During World War II,” “She Built Ships During World War II” and “She Flew Bombers from the Factories to the Bases During World War II.” Slone will be doing a presentation on the latter at the Benicia Historical Museum today at 1.
“She Flew Bombers” tells the story of Violet Willey, a young woman who had aspired to be a pilot since her youth. Willey takes a job as a Woman Airforce Service Pilot during World War II against the urges of her traditional mother. The book details the bravery and hardships of the over 1,000 women who learned to fly over 77 varieties of military aircrafts across America to deliver them to army bases for men to fly into combat.
The novel is based on Slone’s interviews with six former WASPs and weaves in historical photographs and research narratives. The book received the 2012 Indie Book Award.
Slone will be presenting as part of the museum’s ongoing exhibit “A Call to Arms: The Benicia Arsenal- World War II." Executive Director Elizabeth d’Huart says this will be a good opportunity for Beniciains to learn about a less-explored part of history.
“As somebody who works at a local history museum that is housed in buildings that were from the original Arsenal, I know an awful lot about the role of men,” she said. “I like the fact that I learn more about the woman’s role. This is an important period in history for America.”
“It’s the advent of women emerging out into the workforce during World War II that changed the course of relationships between men and women in the United States,” she added.
D’Huart also believes that Slone’s expertise will provide a lot of education on the subject.
“(Slone) is an author who specializes in the period of World War II, particularly focusing on the role of women,” she said. “She does very meticulous historical research. She crafts novels that are basically expositions of the very specific duties of women in helping the military during the war effort.”
During the war, many women were working the assembly lines in Benicia, d’Huart said. The presentation will let viewers know what that was like.
“It gives one a better perspective on their mindset and the kind of challenges that they faced in their day-to-day lives in terms of working in the Arsenal and the additional challenges that they had in working within the constraints of coupon rationing and their husbands, sons or brothers being off at war,” she said. “Combining all those things is an interesting mix.”
Overall, d’Huart feels the presentation will be an interesting window to the past and how it relates to today.
“It’s always interesting to be able to connect the dots between what each of us as individuals are experiencing today and what our mothers, fathers or grandparents were experiencing during those same time periods in their own lives,” she said.
Slone will be delivering her presentation through a Power Point and will read passages while acting them out in character. A question and answer session and book signing will follow, and attendees are encouraged to go upstairs and view the rest of the exhibit afterwards.
The presentation will begin at 1 p.m. today at the Benicia Historical Museum, located on 2060 Camel Road. The event is free, and refreshments will be served.