Spring Break at the AANM

Guest post by Jharina Pascual, 2nd year master’s  student from the University of Michigan School of Information. Jharina volunteered in the AANM curatorial department from March 2-6, 2015 as a part of an Alternative Spring Break program.

My Facebook page was already beginning to fill with friends excitedly posting pictures of touching down in some warmer area of the country, taking a break from the piles of snow. Florida is a popular destination, obviously. To compound this, the collection I was assigned to work with during my week at the AANM was a series of letters written by a young Arab American woman to her friend about her summer as a WAC, or a member of the Women’s Army Corps in the U.S. Army, stationed in Tallahassee, Florida.

May Assaff during her service in WWII

May Assaff during her service in WWII

May Assaff grew up in Massachusetts and joined the WACs during WWII. Although a few letters date from 1943 and 1944, most are from the summer of 1945 in Tallahassee. After a long stay at hospital recovering from a leg injury, May worked as a teacher on the base. Her letters, however, are primarily about taking trips to Wakulla Springs, going clubbing, and her visits with friends – particularly the recipient of the letters, Emily Hajar. Emily was also a military member, serving in the Navy WAVES.

Letter from May, 7/24/45

Letter from May, 7/24/45
Click to enlarge

Emily and May were close, it seems, because their mothers were also friends. May’s letters are filled with concerns of getting her own mother needlessly worried about the injury, which she declined to tell her about during the recovery. During this time, May finds comfort in writing to and hearing from Emily about their various friends and family.

Letter from May, 5/24/1945. Click to enlarge.

Letter from May, 5/24/1945
Click to enlarge

I missed a chance to soak up some sun, but I was ultimately rewarded with a glimpse into a young woman’s friendships and family relationships during World War II, a time when women’s social roles were being redefined. Thank you to the AANM for this opportunity!

Learn more about May Assaff and Emily Hajar on the AANM Collections Online website.

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