Debs at War - SRC #15

debs at I did this big push to be at 14 books at the half way point and haven't really done much since for the SRC (and WOW I just realized I've been labelling more than half of this stuff with SCR - I'll have to fix those...hmmm I wonder what acronym I'm thinking of with that - acronyms are one of the worst things about my job - there are just too darned many of them - ok they are all fixed now but I wonder how long until I do it again...).

So Anne de Courcy Debs at I've mentioned I studied war and society and I've always had an interest in how war influenced the home front and women in particular. In the US, Canada and the UK WWI played a big role in women getting the vote, even if it was really limited at first. (When I think about women getting the vote I always think of the scene in Mary Poppins where Mrs. Banks and her friends are marching around the sitting room going "VOTES FOR WOMEN! RAH! RAH! RAH!" - I can't be the only one right???)

But this is about WWII. It starts looking at the last "Season" in 1939 and the women that came out during it (although it did seem as though some came out the year before as there are occasional references to the 1938 season). It then follows the debs as they take war jobs. The debs really did everything. They were farm and factory workers. They were nurses. The joined the Wrens, ATS, FANYs and were "Attagirls". They worked at Bletchley and in Churchill's map room. Of course, many of them got their jobs, especially those in the more "secretive" positions, through familial connections. I mean, these women were debs and presented at court. I think one of them was actually an official "lady in waiting".

It was sometimes hard to remember who was who in this book. The author, Anne De Courcy, interviewed about 40 debs and most of them are mentioned multiple times throughout the book. De Courcy is pretty good at attempting to remind you who they each were.

I found it interesting but I really wish I had either taken notes or used post-it flags throughout this book (sadly I'm out of them and I need to add them to my list of things to pick up at the office supply store). There are a lot of things I'm trying to remember that would make this post far more interesting but alas I can't find them. Which is demonstrating something about this book - the index rather sucks.

For example, somewhere in the book it was mentioned that one of the ladies wrote a book about their experience at Bletchley and it's something I'd be interested in reading but I couldn't remember exactly who it was that wrote it (with 40 debs I'd like to think that's understandable) but I was pretty sure it was Sarah Norton (aka Hon. Mrs Baring). It wasn't listened under her name in the index but I was able to find it by skimming through the chapter on Bletchley again. It turns out it's also in the bibliography under her married name. But I can't really fault the author for that because it's really rare that authors do their own index. Oh, in case you were wondering it's called The Road to Station X by Sarah Baring (and appears to be a rather rare volume...).
I think the thing that struck me the most is that most of these women, while acknowledging the fact that war sucks, admit that it was one of the best times of their life and the most pivotal. For most of them, all that was expected of them was to be the human equivalent of a pretty flower and to marry well. Most were not encouraged to to much else, even if they had a desire to do so. Because of the war they gained independence and basic life skills. They discovered that they had skills and in many cases discovered their own self-worth and confidence.

For me I think this has revived my interest in reading history, something I haven't done a whole lot of since I got my degree. Part of it is that I tend to read non-fiction at a much slower pace than I read fiction and it really irritates me.

(Sorry this is a bit all over the place - work has my brain tapped.)