Women in World War 1 PowerPoint Commentary Notes Slide 1 Women & World War One Before thinking about the impact of World War One on women, and their responses to it, we need to backtrack a little bit and think of a woman‟s place in Edwardian society. Slide 2 Introduction A woman’s place in Edwardian society The Edwardian era was a relatively „laid back‟ era, where rigid class and gender structures were in place. Women knew their position as either housewives, scullery maids (working class)or the more privileged „lady of leisure‟. If any of you have seen Mary Poppins, you will be familiar with the Edwardian lady of the house, who employed a nanny for her children and was able to follow her interests. In the Mary Poppins scenario, the lady of the house was a suffragette campaigning for equal rights for women. This was an area where women were beginning to become politically active. However, for the working class woman, life was very different. She would have found employment as a servant or, as those of you who have studied „An Inspector Calls‟ will know, some working class women might have found employment in a factory. Education, as we know it, was not available to working class women. Even Vera Brittain, a name you will hear a lot when you begin to study female literary responses to war, had a real battle on her hands to convince her father to let her study at university. Some universities were beginning to „see the light‟ and accept a few wealthy women to study degree courses. However, they were educated separately from the men, and it wasn‟t until the late 1920s that universities actually granted degrees to women. Oxford was one of the first universities to do so, but Cambridge didn‟t award degrees to women until the 1940s. The impact of the First World War WW1 signalled a new era for women. They were needed to help with the war effort by filling the gaps left by the men who went to fight in the war. Suddenly women were needed, and were taken, in effect, out of the domestic sphere into a man‟s world. Recruitment material This presentation will show some of the strategies used to recruit women into war and the kind of recruitment posters used. A poetic response It will also consider how the ideas in the recruitment campaign manifested themselves in the poetry that emerged from these times. Slide 3 Shaming men into war Women were often active participants in shaming men to try to goad them into fighting wars. Some scholars argue that this poster was propaganda devised by men to affect other men. “Many women tried to get their sons out of the army. Others were agitating to prevent conscription.” Question: Who might have „produced‟ this poster? Are the women represented „real‟ or „contrived‟? Slide 4 Propaganda and psychological persuasion Example of a poster speaking to women to get their men to go to war. Conscription was not in place until much later. Notice the stereotypical appeal – colour, language. Question: How would you react if you were directly addressed in this way? Slide 5 Recruiting The caption on this poster for the Women‟s Land Army reads: „God speed the plough and the woman who drives it.‟ Question: What imagery is being used here? What is the underlying message for potential recruits? Slide 6 Women’s support roles Right up to the outbreak of World War 1, feminists on both sides of the Atlantic pledged themselves to peace, in transnational women‟s solidarity. Motherhood and religion were two of the foremost themes in female poetic responses to the war. Notice the imagery here, the Madonna and Child, only in this instance, the „child‟ is a wounded soldier on a stretcher. Question: What might the message of this poster suggest? Slide 7 Non-traditional vs Traditional Women found employment in all „fields‟ traditionally worked by men. The Women‟s Land Army played a vital role in keeping Britain „eating‟. The volunteers usually went to the war zones and would nurse and comfort the soldiers. Their involvement in this way was often greeted with opposition from their families as mother did not „want her daughter dealing with the “lower classes” --- these volunteers were not paid. Question: What might this tell us about social structures in England? Women found employment in all „fields‟ traditionally worked by men. The Women‟s Land Army played a vital role in keeping Britain „eating‟ Slide 8 Non-traditional vs Traditional As the previous slide showed, and as these real photographs depict, women were „active‟ in all manner of ways. Here is coal being lifted by women whilst a nurse tends to the wounded. Slide 9 Non-traditional vs traditional The photograph here shows a woman working for the RAF on her motorcycle. In contrast, we have the photograph of the more familiar Edwardian woman with the man who would have driven her. Slide 10 Us and Them Notice the wording of these posters. Question: What do you think the „message‟ is to the women of England? Slide 11 National vs Gendered Identity The enemy is identified as „German‟, suggesting that national identity is more important than gender. Question: What point is this poster trying to make? How might this compare to „stereotypical‟ images of women? Slide 12 American Connections Right up to the outbreak of WW1, feminists on both sides of the Atlantic pledged themselves to peace, in transnational women‟s solidarity. When America entered the war, the call for women followed much the same path as that for their British counterparts. Interestingly, as the top far right poster suggests, the „girls over there‟ was a direct appeal to a British/American female solidarity. Slide 13 Anti-War Demonstrators Much like our contemporary stance about the war in Iraq, not everyone agreed with going to war. Women, as well as men, were against war. This picture depicts a protest on the streets of London. Slide 14 War Girls So what do the images you‟ve seen thus far have to do with the literature of the period? Here is a poem, written by Jesse Pope, which suggests the double identity women had to adopt during these times. Notice the line, „No longer caged and penned up‟ – what might this suggest? Slide 15 War Girls (cont) Comments on poem – cont: And notice how the new-found almost „liberating‟ identity takes priority over „femaleness‟. However, with the signing of the armistice in 1918, weary soldiers began returning home to high rents and scarce jobs. They sent the message “Women Must Go”, and go they did – quietly back to the home, the kitchen, or the unemployment line. By the Autumn of 1919, nearly three-quarters of a million women had lost their jobs. Despite the fact that women had done their „bit‟ for the war effort, things did not change immediately. But it was the beginning of the end of the stereotypical Edwardian woman, as perceptions of women began, albeit slowly, to change. A newspaper cartoon image from the period very accurately „predicts‟ what the First World War would do for women. Slide 16 A ‘dying’ suffragette A „dying‟ suffragette is a newspaper cartoon image from the era. Suffragettes had been campaigning long before the outbreak of war for equal opportunities and the right to vote and had failed in their quest. In 1918 women over the age of 30 were given the right to vote and in 1928 this was changed so that all women had equal political rights with men. Question: How important was the War for changing attitudes towards women? An editorial in the Women Worker cynically recalled the „glowing tributes‟ of the prime minister and others: “ „Without you we cannot win the war‟, they said. Is it to be imagined that the men who paid the tributes will allow the objects of their admiration to be thrown on the industrial scraphead? Oh we of little faith.” The war therefore did not represent a positive turning point for women workers. The inflated wartime rhetoric that promised new opportunities for women deflated into a few segmented options: returning to their homes, working in someone else‟s, or falling back on „women‟s work‟. By 1921, the percentage of women working was even slightly less than it had been in 1911. By 1928, well over half of all working women remained in the „traditional‟ women‟s fields of domestics, textiles, or clothing manufacture, and throughout the 1920s and 1930s, women still earned only half the wages of men. Finally, I want to leave you with a question … (see Slide 17) Slide 17 A final thought … In your opinion, what impact has the First World War had on your generation??
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