Adrian Bingham Oxford
..it is a strange, unnatural Oxford that our war-time memory recalls- full, on the surface, of busy war-time activities at heart seared, desolate and forlorn(Butler, R F and Pritchard, M H (eds) St Annes College. A History. OUP, 1958, p.73)
Although Oxford did not directly experience the horrors of the First World War, it was as Vera Brittain commented an invisible presence. (Brittain, Vera, The Women at Oxford, Harrop, 1960, p.137) ) Oxford was transformed from a university city into a military, medical and refugee centre. Women, as they did elsewhere, took on mens jobs and played a more important role in the citys political life and economy.
Throughout the previous decade many of these women had been active in local branches of the womens suffrage and anti-suffrage movements. The suffrage discourse was an important and controversial part of the local political scene. By 1914 Oxford had eight different suffrage societies with a combined membership of nearly 1000 women and men as well as over 500 members who belonged to societies opposed to womens suffrage. With the advent of war all these local societies had to decide whether or not to follow the national lead and cease their campaigning and use their skills and members to support the war effort.
In this paper I will analyse the impact the war had on the suffrage issue in Oxford and whether or not womens contributions to the war effort resulted in an increase in womens political and public role after the war.
Sara Brady University
of Wales, Lampeter,
University of the Third Age'
After her sons were away in the forces Peg continues to chronicle the daily lives of herself and her daughters throughout the war. She writes detailed monthly letters to her brothers and sisters, keeping them informed of the anxieties and tragedies suffered by her family, as well as the shortages, war work and comic relief of everyday life on their little piece of the home front.
In this presentation I will draw out certain themes from the letters to illustrate the attitudes and experiences of one middle-class family; I will discuss the delights and difficulties of using personal letters as a source of everyday womens history and argue that the letters play a significant part in the maintenance of the family network. Through them Peg defines what counts as family, expresses solidarity, and affirms a strong idiosyncratic family culture. They are an important means of preserving intergenerational continuity in face of the disruption of war. They also enable the writer to tell her story through a series of episodes, thus projecting herself as a central figure in keeping the family together in a time of stress.
When War was declared in August 1914, many British women demanded the right to serve the nation. Had Kitcheners sister called for a million women, recruitment would have been as easy as for her as for her brother. Many women assumed that Red Cross First Aid and other Proficiency certificates would provide an entrée into the charmed circle of military nursing. Others expected the War Office would welcome their professional skills as doctors and surgeons and send them on Active Service overseas. Still others imagined that their birth, breeding and total confidence in their own usefulness to the Allied cause would be as self-evident to the military authorities as to themselves. However, in 1914 the War Office believed that, apart from the small exclusive corps of professional military nurses, in wartime, women should go home and sit still. If they wanted to be useful, they could knit socks for soldiers.
This paper uses their own writings and biographical accounts, to reconstruct the war stories of three different British women: Sergeant-Major Flora Sandes, probably the only British woman to have borne arms during the Great War; Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland who arrived at the Front ahead of the B.E.F., before the war was even 100 hours old and suffragist Doctor Elsie Inglis, founder of the Scottish Womens Hospitals whose units served on the Western and Eastern Fronts. Together they represent the thousands of women who refused to accept that war had nothing to do with the ladies.
University of the West of England
Showalter has demonstrated the extent to which many British men were unable to adhere to the prevailing social codes. If madness is a female malady, then a great number of men frankly revealed their lack of masculinity during combat. However, the government, the military authorities and the Royal Army Medical Corps were all determined that popular sympathy for shell shock sufferers should not erode masculine prestige.
Treatment of shell shock was seriously divided by class but united by approaches to gender, and all diagnoses were based on the search for innate non-masculine attributes. Suffers were then given the opportunity to reassert their masculinity. Officers were prescribed a modified rest cure which differed significantly from that offered to neurasthenic women, whilst men were subject to a variety of rapid treatments, all designed to send them back the Front as soon as possible. All of these processes emphasised male sociability and traditional masculine values. All were united in insisting that the men should not be labelled as lunatics. As a result, despite the traumas of World War One, the link between madness and femininity was maintained, and male protege continued to be largely based upon a martial ideal.
This paper is based on the analysis of texts of Russian philosophers (Rozanov, Berdiaev, Bulgakov, Ivanov, Ern, Merezhovsky and others). The idea of feminine Russia and masculine Germany was popular in phiosophy of history of both cultures. Interpreting Russia as Other, as embodiment of the barbaric East, german authors attributed to it feminine traits both in Russophobic and Russophilic discourses. Idea of the femininity of Russia was accepted in Russia by the adherents of messianic ideology, who connected Russias mission with feminine values. The idea of complementarity of Russia and Germany was reflected in the image of their spiritual marriage.
During the First World War this view was criticised by Russian philosophers; one can distinguish several themes in this critique. The adherents of the first point of view considered such an interpretation of the opposition of Russia-germany as an invention of German imperialism. They deconstructed the idea of manhood of the German principle and stressed Russian masculinity (at the same time the substantiation of the new geo-political picture was reflected in other gender metaphors such as England had to become masculine to complement the feminine Russian soul. The adfherents of the second point of view admitted the extreme femininity of Russia but saw it as a danger to be overcome by the Russians.
The third point of view was based on a kind of autofeminization of Russia and included: a) a stress on the self sacrifice of mother Russia and feminine suffering b) the substantiation of Russias moral advantage by ascribing masculine traits to
the enemy. The purity of intentions of the Russian Government, the just character of the war and the altruism of Russias external policy were set against a background of the brutalization of Germany which was characterised as having attributes of brutal masculinity, pride, egoism, mechanization, cult of violence, will, rationalism. c ) that female power and strength could surpass the male, thus the feminine image in Russian culture could be seen as an advantage in war, not as a defect. The image of ever victorious Mother Russia could be used to underpin the view that the defeat of Germany was inevitable.
Gender interpretations of the war could be used to represent other rivals of Germany the suffering and humility of Belgium and Poland, German soldiers rape of Russian women and the Virgin Marys protection of Orthodox and Catholic countries in comparison to Germany.
The story of the Scottish Womens Hospitals is well known. The War Office rebuke to Dr Elsie Inglis, when she offered the services of her hospital unit, My good lady, go home and sit still, and her resolute determination not to do so, provide a stirring start to one of the most dramatic stories of the First World War. Backed by the Scottish Federation of Suffrage Societies, Ingliss Womens Hospital Corps eventually saw action in France, Serbia, Russia, Salonica and Macedonia, making an effective contribution to the war effort of the Allies.
The Scottish Womens Hospitals are important for many reasons, but two are of particular interest here. Firstly, the close link between the war action and the Suffrage Movement raise important questions about the interface between the two, with particular regard to the achievement of the vote in 1918. Secondly, many of the women involved, including Inglis herself, left detailed records of their experience, articles, diaries and letters. These are invaluable sources for the writing of womens histories but they also provide important literary texts, written documents which may themselves have played a significant role in the promoting of the womens cause.
This paper uses these written texts to assess the impact of this medical work on the progression of the campaign for the vote. How important were these actions and these words in the final securing of womens enfranchisement? Did the relationship between the war and the campaign produce and promote a discourse, which, in itself, was helpful in reaching that long-sought goal.
In her novels of the 1920s Virginia Woolf dealt with the aftermath of the First World War as it affected families and individuals. In Jacobs Room (1922) we gradually learn that the life being depicted will end with Jacobs death in action; Mrs Dalloway (1925) features the shell-shocked and suicidal Septimus Smith as a foil to its eponymous protagonist; and Andrew Ramsay in To the Lighthouse (1926) is killed, offstage, in France. By the 1930s, however, the threat of a second world war became a growing concern of Woolf, one which she attempted to connect to concerns about the place of women, and particularly, the place of the woman writer in society.
In this paper I will focus on Three Guineas, the essay in the form of letters which Woolf worked on from the early 1930s and which finally appeared in 1938. Here Woolf, often contentiously, links masculinity and bellicosity in an uncompromising fashion and bases her views of the possibilities for woman on what many saw as a blinkered analysis of class. (Woolfs suggestion that women had often had to stir the pot with one hand and rock the cradle with the other led to Q.D.Leaviss retort that Woolf would not know which end of the cradle to stir). I will suggest that re-contextualising Three Guineas can help, if not to excuse the deficiencies in Woolfs argument then at least to clarify some of its themes. The essay can be seen as a continuation of the earlier A Room of Ones Own (1929) I its discussion of the possibilities for female education; as a response to the death in the Spanish Civil War of her nephew, Julian Bell; and as an attempt by a non-combatant and pacifist woman to assert a continuing role for herself and her work in the face of imminent catastrophe. In this respect it will also be relevant to make reference to Woolfs two fictions, The Years (1937) of which Three Guineas was originally a part, and Between the Acts (1941), a final attempt to look to the future, written as the Second World War broke out. I will suggest that Three Guineas, although looked on askance by some of her contemporaries, crystallises many of Woolfs concerns at a time of impending crisis, as well as raising important questions about gender relations and war.
The Contagious Diseases Acts of the 19th Century had emphasized womens subordinate status and role in a patriarchal society. Although repealed in 1886, once the Great War started there were attempts to reinstate these Acts and so restrict womens movements just at the time when the British Government invited the Belgian people to come to this country and officially encouraged women to provide succour for the thousands of refugees arriving at ports and in London, often late at night.
War conditions created new openings for women to use their caring power. Members of local War Refugee Committees, mainly women, were responsible for the care of refugees at ports of entry; they were met at London railway stations by members of suffrage Societies and other womens organizations where women volunteers acted as interpreters. Suffrage networks were used to find places of hospitality; women served on Relief Committees, organizing the buying of houses, equipping them as refugee homes and dealing with problems such as zone prohibition. They set up maternity homes, hospitals and hostels, coped with funding and dealt with the myriad day-to-day details of administration. It will be argued that womens relief work constituted them as social subjects in an international setting and acted as a balance to sexual hysterics which sought to increase control over their bodies.
Van Drenthe, Annemieke & DE Haan, Francisca, The Rise of Caring Power. (Amsterdam:1999:14)
University of Hull