Newswise — How did American women respond to the end of World War II? What did women from across the United States write to their husbands, relatives and each other about the wartime use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Judy Barrett Litoff, a history professor at Bryant University in Rhode Island, and a scholar of woman and war can offer compelling insights. Professor Litoff recently delivered a well-received paper on women's responses to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. The paper was based on letters she has filed in her 30,000-letter archive of correspondences written by women during World War II.

The conference, Atomic Bomb and American Society, sponsored by the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, was held July 15-17 at the Oak Ridge National Lab, one of the three national laboratories where the atomic bomb was developed in the 1940s. Professor Litoff's paper: "'Over the radio yesterday, I heard the starting of another war': Women's Wartime Correspondence, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the End of World War II." In it, she writes:

"The letters written by America's wartime women, both civilian and military, during the final weeks of the Second World War demonstrate that they did not naively embrace the coming of the atomic age. While thankful and proud that the United States had developed a weapon of unprecedented power that would bring about a quick end to the war, letter writers understood that the postwar world would face enormous, but still unknown challenges, as it addressed the difficult questions of how to maintain peace in the new atomic age. "One of the striking features of the letters written by American women during World War II is the degree of political sensitivity and sophistication that is expressed in their correspondence. While love and longing formed a central theme of women's wartime letters, letter writers also made it clear that they considered the politics of the war to be of utmost importance."

She is an excellent source on what these letters reveal about the conflict that forever changed the world. Professor Litoff can offer quotable thoughts on how American women experienced that change, and what they hoped for the future.

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