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Double Victory    by Cheryl Mullenbach order for
Double Victory
by Cheryl Mullenbach
Order:  USA  Can
Chicago Review Press, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

They are not women most people would probably recognize but Hazel Dixon Payne, Deverne Calloway, Bettye Murphy Phillips and Kitty Cox each played a role in challenging the race and gender barriers that existed during World War II.

The stories of these and scores of other African American women who quietly stepped forward to provide medical assistance, work in factories, and raise troop morale, as well as play other important roles in the war effort, is told in Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II by Cheryl Mullenbach.

Without making headlines or focusing attention on themselves and their efforts, these dedicated and determined women helped lay the foundation for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s as they fought discrimination at home and abroad.

Many of these incredible stories (told for the first time) were only shared with family members and have never had a wider audience until now. When the call went out for women to enter the work force during the early days of the war, black women responded but were met with open discrimination.

In June, 1942, forty women in Chicago completed courses at a technology school that prepared them for employment as ordnance inspectors, chemists and draftsmen. The demand was such that on the day they graduated all but five Negro women who successfully completed the academic work were offered jobs.

Even with discrimination like this the barriers black women faced did eventually begin to fall. The shipyards in Richmond, California, began hiring black women as welders and jobs opened up in aircraft plants and ordnance plants.

Among the wartime success stories was the tale of Willa Brown, one of the first black women licensed as a pilot in the U.S., who directed a government-supported flying school for the training of black pilots in 1941. Another inspiring tale was of journalist Bettye Murphy Phillips, the only black woman war correspondent sent overseas during the war.

Of course there were set backs too. Although Daryle Foister spent years as an Army nurse serving during the war years in hospitals all over the globe, when she applied to further her education at nursing school at Louisiana State University after the war, she was denied admission. Foister brought a lawsuit against the university in 1951 and won, thus opening up LSU to other qualified black students.

Although this book was written for young adults, there's so much fascinating information in it that individuals of any age will find it well worth reading.

It is important that these women not be forgotten and this book goes far in making sure that their valiant efforts and sacrifices remain part of our collective, national memory.

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