Cover for VIRDEN: Good-bye, Piccadilly: British War Brides in America

Good-bye, Piccadilly

British War Brides in America
Awards and Recognition:

A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 1997.

"An incisive and engaging account of a fascinating story that unfolded during the Second World War. Relying on both questionnaires and documentary evidence, Virden has fit the account of British war brides into the larger history of American immigration and made an importanat contribution to the historical literature." -- Allan M. Winkler, Miami University of Ohio

As much of the world tried to return to normal living and working patterns after World War II, some 70,000 British women chose to be uprooted from the homeland they knew and loved. These were British war brides, a uniformly young group who by marrying American servicemen became part of the largest single group of female immigrants to the United States.

Though the women came to the U.S. from all parts of the British Isles, they were an unusually homogeneous group, averaging 23 years of age, from working- or lower-middle-class families and having completed mandatory schooling to the age of fourteen. For the most part they emigrated alone and didn't move into an existing immigrant population.

Jenel Virden draws on records in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the Public Record Office in London, as well as questionnaires and personal interviews, in relating the women's story. Virden finds that the marriages actually took place in spite of, rather than because of, the war.

And, while the women benefited from special nonrestrictive immigration legislation--and found public welcomes and a good deal of favorable publicity when they arrived--they also had much in common with other immigrant groups, including a strong sense of ethnic identity.

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