From Coveralls to Zoot Suits

The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front

By Elizabeth R. Escobedo

256 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 18 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2209-5
    Published: February 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0206-6
    Published: March 2013
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4335-7
    Published: March 2013

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Awards & distinctions

2014 Armitage-Jameson Book Prize, Coalition for Western Women's History

Best History Book - English, International Latino Book Awards

During World War II, unprecedented employment avenues opened up for women and minorities in U.S. defense industries at the same time that massive population shifts and the war challenged Americans to rethink notions of race. At this extraordinary historical moment, Mexican American women found new means to exercise control over their lives in the home, workplace, and nation. In From Coveralls to Zoot Suits, Elizabeth R. Escobedo explores how, as war workers and volunteers, dance hostesses and zoot suiters, respectable young ladies and rebellious daughters, these young women used wartime conditions to serve the United States in its time of need and to pursue their own desires.

But even after the war, as Escobedo shows, Mexican American women had to continue challenging workplace inequities and confronting family and communal resistance to their broadening public presence. Highlighting seldom heard voices of the "Greatest Generation," Escobedo examines these contradictions within Mexican families and their communities, exploring the impact of youth culture, outside employment, and family relations on the lives of women whose home-front experiences and everyday life choices would fundamentally alter the history of a generation.

About the Author

Elizabeth R. Escobedo is associate professor of history at the University of Denver.
For more information about Elizabeth R. Escobedo, visit the Author Page.


“A superbly researched and written book. . . . [Escobedo] draws heavily on oral histories and archival documents, and her use of photographs from the Los Angeles Public Library makes for an attractive presentation. . . . Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.” —Choice

“A rich and multifaceted view of Mexican American women’s lives in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s. . . . Fresh and exciting.”—Women’s Review of Books

“A solidly researched and well-written perspective.” —Minnesota History

“Escobedo has produced an exemplary study, a ground-level microhistory that speaks to larger issues and would work well in both undergraduate and graduate courses.” —Journal of American History

“Escobedo has written a fine addition to an ever-growing body of work on Mexican Americans during World War II, in the tradition of the culture-conscious social historians George Sanchez and, especially, Vicki Ruiz.” —American Historical Review

“Escobedo’s book still expands our understanding of race, community, and identity in new and important ways that speak to both the significance of the period as well as larger concepts, such as how everyday practices can also be viewed as examples of political experiences or cultural practices.”—Southern California Quarterly