Daughter of a veteran of World War II, Hilary Kaiser was born in New York City in 1946 and grew up in San Francisco, California. In the 1960s, she lived in France for three years with her parents. She earned a B.A. degree in French and English from San Francisco State University in 1969 with a “junior year abroad” at Trinity College, Dublin. Following her marriage in 1970 to a French Fulbright scholar who was studying in the U.S., she returned to Paris, where she continued her graduate work in Anglophone Studies. After obtaining a Maîtrise, she went on to receive the CAPES (teaching certificate) and then a DEA (research-oriented Master’s degree) and a PhD from the University of Paris VII. She taught for a number of years in the international section of the Lycée de Sèvres and then became a Maître de Conférences at the University of Paris-Sud. Her current fields of interest are bi-culturalism, intercultural communication and intercultural management. She has given lectures on French and American culture and business practices at various business schools in France and as a visiting Erasmus/Socrates lecturer at universities in Spain, Finland and Ireland.
An amateur historian, she is fascinated by World War II and is an oral history practitioner and writer.
Hilary Kaiser is the author of two books: Des Amours de GI’s: les petites françaises du Débarquement (2004) and Souvenirs de Veterans (original version in English : Veteran Recall: Americans in France Remember the War, 2004). She is currently working on a third book about the children of GI’s and French women after World War II.. She has also published a number of articles on American religious groups and the American presence in France in the Revue française des Etudes américaines and American Studies International.
The american Soldier and "Mademoiselle": Love and Marriage After WWI and WW2
Thousands of American soldiers married French women after both World Wars. What were the policies of the U.S. Army, the State Department and the French government, with regard to these amorous relations and Franco-American marriages? What role did the American Red Cross, the YMCA, the YWCA and other organizations play in discouraging or encouraging Franco-American encounters? How were they portrayed in the American army press and the civilian newspapers and magazines of both countries? How many marriages were formed? What provision was made for “souvenir babies”? How did these French women travel to the U.S.? What difficulties did they face in adapting to a new culture? Were there any French or American associations or groups that helped them in the transition? How did these women construct and negotiate their bi-cultural identity against the historical and social backdrop of the late 40s and 50s and over the ensuing years?
The archives and historiography answer some of these questions. But it is the French “war brides” themselves who can reveal the hidden side of the story. The womens’ letters of the time, as well as the oral history interviews Ms. Kaiser has conducted with 26 of these war brides and a number of “souvenir babies”, provide information that cannot be found in history books.