Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Penelope A. Blake, PH.D.  

Pen Name: Penelope A. LeFew-Blake, Ph. D.

Genre: American History Military History Nonfiction Women's History World War II

Born: in Harvard, Illinois

-- Website --
-- Penelope A. Blake, PH.D. on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Blake was born in Harvard, Illinois and now lives in Rockford, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Penelope A. LeFew-Blake, Ph.D., is a professor of humanities who serves as an educational adviser to the Fort Des Moines Memorial Park and Education Center. She lectures extensively on World War II history and has written several books and articles on American and European culture.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

My Mother's Fort:: A Photographic Tribute to Fort DesMoines, First Home of the Woman's Army Corps
ISBN: 1419608320

BookSurge Publishing. 2005

In the summer of 1942, 440 women walked through the stone gate of Fort Des Moines to become the first female military officers in American history. In the months and years to come, thousands of women would follow, serving in non-combat roles in order to free thousands more men to fight on the front lines against totalitarianism during the bloodiest conflict in human history, World War II. Among these women was a red-headed farm girl from Illinois, Carrie Jones LeFew.

Married to a soldier who became "Missing in Action" when the Philippines fell to the Japanese in May 1942, Carrie joined the Women"s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) for the same reason thousands of others did: to do her part to bring the war to a swift end so that her life with the man she loved could begin again. She was assigned duty at Fort Des Moines where she would spend most of the next four years of her life as she moved up the ranks of the military, eventually achieving the officer's rank of captain. Her wartime journal provides a personal and poignant frame for this story of the fort she came to love.

Today, most of the historic fort, once called the "West Point of the Midwest," has been demolished. The few remaining original buildings have been renovated and now represent the Fort Des Moines Education and Research Center, which opened in July 2004. The center pays homage to the entire history of Fort Des Moines, from its earliest days as a cavalry post which saw the first African-Americans become army officers to its role as the first home of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in World War II.

My Mother's Fort: A Photographic Tribute to Fort Des Moines, First Home of the Women's Army Corps captures this entire history both through the words of those who served at the fort and hundreds of photographs from its earliest cavalry days to its current renovation. The book is the culmination of over three years of research, including extensive interviews with former "WACs" and others who lived at the fort, the study of every primary source available on its long history (including many published and unpublished WAC memoirs), and on-site research at the current fort. As a result, this book offers the only comprehensive history and photographic documentation of Fort Des Moines.

Fort Des Moines (IA) (Images of America)
ISBN: 0738540684

Arcadia Publishing. 2006

Often referred to as “the West Point of the Midwest” because of its majestic red brick buildings and lush tree-lined landscape, Fort Des Moines shaped American history from its inception. Originally located at the fork of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, Fort Des Moines relocated four miles south of the city and began to assume its revolutionary place in military history. By 1909, it was the largest cavalry post in the country, and Pres. William H. Taft chose it as the site of his “Great Tournament” of cavalry units. In 1917, for the first time in American history, African American officers received commissions at Fort Des Moines. Future president Ronald Reagan perfected his equestrian skills on its vast parade ground. The legacy of the cavalry lingered when, in 1942, the fort served as the first training center for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and many female recruits found themselves sleeping in cavalry stables converted into barracks.



Availability for Public Speaking

Speaking Engagement Availability: (Yes)

The author is available to give a 45 minute presentation on the Women's Army Corps at Fort Des Moines during World War II.