This month's recommendation comes from Becky Moulder, Courseware Instructional Designer for the Penn Libraries' Courseware Support team.

Becky’s recommendation to read:

"Home Fires: the Story of the Women’s Institute in the Second World War" by Julie Summers.

Why I recommend this book:

It’s been said that no one understands the true cost of war better than women. In Home Fires (originally published as Jambusters in the UK), author Julie Summers explores the rich history of women who rallied together to keep the British home front running during WWII. The Women’s Institute, or WI, first began after WWI as a way to educate women in rural villages about modern farming practices and home economics. When war broke out again, the WI—more than 325,000-members strong—was already established as the most effective means of disseminating news throughout the country. While the WI may be best known for producing over 12 million pounds of jam, its true legacy encompasses so much more.

Without breaking from its non-partisan, pacifist principles, the WI was involved in advising 11 government ministries and significantly reforming children’s health and education, housing, and post-war reconstruction. These women knitted millions of garments for troops and refugees, baked pies, ran canteens, bust logjams, circumvented bureaucracy, and wrote a major report on evacuation, all while breaking down barriers of class and gender inequality. Perhaps their most significant contribution was their efforts to rehouse 1.3 million evacuees and refugees from throughout Europe. Their selflessness and compassion is still a poignant and timely example for today.

Note: The book served as the basis for a compelling and gorgeously filmed Masterpiece series by the same name starring Downton Abbey’s Samantha Annis. Sadly, the series was abruptly cancelled after only two seasons, but it is worth seeking out on DVD or through PBS Passport.

How you can read Home Fires: the Story of the Women’s Institute in the Second World War:

Penn students and faculty can read Home Fires: the Story of the Women’s Institute in the Second World War online the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center with their Penn ID. Alumni and friends of the Penn Libraries can also borrow our books for a yearly membership fee. Click here for information on how courtesy borrowers can access the Libraries' resources.