Gail Hickey


How do U.S. women immigrants remember their experiences of World War II? In what ways do these women choose to transmit their memories to the next generation? These are the questions explored in this study.

Women immigrants have been treated as if they were insignificant actors in history and socialization (Kelson & DeLaet, 1999). Feminist scholarship challenges this portrait of women as insignificant actors, arguing against gender-biased perspectives on the immigration experience. Yet scholarly sources provide little information about the “real life problems” of women immigrants (Barber, 2005).

Immigration research historically has tended toward historical and demographical data compilations, resulting in a database devoid of personal voice or lived experience (Errante, 2000; Heinemann, 1996). Researchers have largely ignored women immigrants‟ stories. Studying contemporary European immigrant women's narratives of wartime experience can provide scholars with fresh perspectives on the World War II era.

This article draws from both the feminist framework and oral history research methodology to record and analyze European immigrant women’s experiences with and memories of war and to illuminate scholars’ understanding of women as civilians during times of war. The researcher recounts 10 European women’s experiences of and memories about World War II. The study adds to the available literature by considering women’s experiences of war, as told by women, and as passed down to successive generations.

Author Biography

M. Gail Hickey is a professor in the College of Education & Public Policy at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA. Her research focuses on the experiences and perspectives of contemporary U.S. migrants, with an emphasis on gender. This article was adapted from a lecture given at Kings College, London.