Well, another Veterans Day/Month in a pandemic has completed. Although with the availability of vaccines and booster shots, this time has been very different. We were able to bring Mollie’s War to organizations both on Zoom and in-person. Zoom or webinars are always unique when people are muted and not showing in boxes–it is difficult to access reactions. Going back to in-person presentations was a wonderful experience! The groups that I spoke with were so engaging and enthusiastic. I really missed the interaction of live audiences and the interchange of talking with people. We met one WWII Veteran who was 98 and served in the same vicinity as Mollie and another man who bemoaned the fact that he never made it out of the USA. We met several women who served in the military one as a nurse just after WWII and continued serving for many years afterwards. We also met several other women who served after WWII. There are so few WWII Veterans still attending my presentations that I always enjoy meeting the men and women who kept our country safe as well as everyone else who attends. There are so many people who are just interested in history. Everyone has such unique experiences!
Well this was our second Women’s History Month in a pandemic but at least Mollie’s War was prepared for it. March 2020 the world shut down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). We did one in-person presentation in Savanna, Illinois on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2020). It was a wonderful time and such a beautiful setting. Little did we know the changes on the horizon. After March 12, all of our presentations were canceled/postponed. We didn’t have another presentation until April 2020 when organizations started using Zoom to deliver content to audiences. We have continued to use Zoom since then. One positive note is the fact that people can join from all over the country! But the biggest negative is not having the audience reactions and interactions–and not getting to meet people in person. When it is safe to do so, we are hoping to travel the state to meet some of the people that we have seen on Zoom. It is difficult to assess reactions when everyone is muted and in little video boxes–and sometimes when a webinar is being used, you don’t even see the video boxes.
We met many interesting people during March 2021. We spoke in DeKalb at Elwood House, Lansing Library on International Women’s Day, Champaign Genealogy Society, Sycamore Library and Arlington Heights Library. It was so nice meeting people who were genuinely interested in history and were delighted that my mother and her family saved all of her “stuff.” If they had not saved this information, there would not have been an accurate story. I’ve enjoyed discovering this new audience of people interested in what the women did in WWII, a story that is not told often.
One of my favorite times from this month was when our grandchildren stayed over during spring break and I had a presentation. Our seven year old granddaughter, Hava, wanted to see my practice session. So she joined me–she told me that I had a lot of information. As I was talking and showing the slides, she asked many questions. What usual takes 45 minutes took almost an hour and a half. She was very interested. One of her questions occurred when I was showing the slide of children being evacuated from London to safer places during the buzz bombing. She wanted to know if the children ever saw their parents again—what a question but so appropriate for a child of the 2020s.
I am incredibly proud to have been selected as a Road Scholar from Illinois Humanities for the next two years to continue telling my mother’s story, Mollie’s War. This is the story of the women who served in the military during WWII. I have had the privilege and opportunity to travel across Illinois as part of Illinois Humanities over the last six years. If you are looking for an interesting story for your group, please contact me.
I am very happy to announce my first Zoom presentation. My sister and I met the president of our local chapter of NOW (National Organization of Women) on the train a few months ago. She asked me to speak at the organization’s next Virtual meeting
Dear NOW members and supporters, Our next virtual (online) chapter meeting, at 7:00 p.m. next Wednesday, will feature a presentation by Cyndee Schaffer, co-author of the fascinating book Mollie’s War: The Letters of a World War II WAC in Europe. Ms. Schaffer will discuss women in the military during the Second World War, and in particular, her mother Mollie Schaffer’s experiences as a member of the Women’s Army Corps (the WACs) by taking you on a journey from inspiration to publication.
March 2020 has been a most unusual and unpredictable month. Little did we know how the world would change in a very short time. We are all “in shelter at home” and just trying to make it through the day. But our essential workers–health care professionals, grocery store employees, pharmacy employees, truck drivers and other who must go to work every day–deserve a huge thank you. We are so appreciative of what they are doing to make the world work.
Mollie’s War started the month with 8 presentations but due to the coronavirus, we were only able to deliver 2 of them. First we traveled to Tinley Park where we met other Baby Boomers whose mothers and fathers served in WWII. Then we traveled to Savanna, IL, a beautiful town on the Mississippi River. It was a lovely weekend and we explored the town and even walked into Iowa. The presentation was in the Historical Museum which is under construction. We met many interesting people including a man who talked about how he trained soldiers to fire guns and re-assemble the guns–and it was a definite problem when they lost the parts and couldn’t re-assemble the gun–something that Mollie talks about in a video . The museum director took me upstairs so that I could learn about an Illinois woman–Jennie Hodgers who dressed as a man–Albert Cashier during the Civil War……now I have an Illinois connection about women who dressed as men in order to serve.
We spend a few days in December on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA where it is now docked after being a luxury ocean liner and troop ship during WWII. The Queen Mary, a luxury ocean liner built in 1936 but put into service in 1942 as a troop ship during WWII, was one of the fastest ships in the world. She was very useful during WWII because she could out-run the German submarines and torpedoes. And therefore she was never hit during her run in WWII. My mother was on this ship when she returned from Europe after serving in Europe in WWII.
We got a behind the scenes tour of the ship and talked with the Commodore (and historian) about the ship and my mother’s sailing. It was an amazing and informative visit on the ship.
Illinois Humanities’ Road Scholars Speakers Bureau will feature a Veteran’s Day program highlighting the often overlooked, yet vital, role of women during World War II. Join us November 10th in Sterling, IL, for The Journey to Mollie’s War: WACS and WW II, a presentation by Cyndee Schaffer, which draws on the letters of her mother, Mollie Weinstein Schaffer, a member of the Women’s Army Corps in Europe that traces the footsteps of the women who were stationed in London before D-Day and during the post D-Day German buzz bomb attacks.
I will be the featured speaker for Women’s Equality Day at the Skokie Library on Monday, August 26, 2019 at 2 PM. World War II opened up, by necessity, opportunities for women to work and be seen outside the domestic sphere.
Please join me in Chicago at the Printers Row LitFest this Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9 at the Midwest Writers Association’s Tent W which we are sharing with the Windy City Historians. I will be there all day both days to discuss MWA and sell/discuss my book, “Mollie’s War: The Letters of a WWII WAC.” Hope to see you over the weekend!
Please read the interview with Cyndee in the May 9, 2019 Northbrook Star in the Shout Out Northbrook section.