Conflicting attitudes to the war in Europe in women’s diaries from the Great War

Costel Coroban

Postdoctoral researcher, Interdisciplinary School of Doctoral Studies, University of Bucharest, coroban_costel(a)yahoo.com

Abstract
This paper discusses the change in women’s mentality towards the concept of war and their own role in it according to autobiographical sources such as was journals, diaries, letters or autobiographical novels authored by women who were present at the front during the Great War. The primary sources quoted in this analysis include letters and diaries from nurses who worked in Dr. Elsie Inglis’s Scottish Women’s Hospitals unit as well as the “testament” of Vera Mary Brittain, famous English Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse and writer and women’s rights activist. Among the secondary sources employed in the analysis are the seminal works of Christine E. Hallett, Maxine Alterio, Santanu Das, Eric J. Leed and Claire M. Tylee. Before arriving at a conclusion, the paper highlights important changes in women’s discourse towards the war as well as the way in which such changes were supported by the novel situation in which women found themselves, namely as active participants at the front, and their aspirations towards equal rights and equal treatment.
Rezumat
Această lucrare aduce în discuţie schimbările din mentalitatea feminină despre conceptul de război şi despre rolul acestora în cadrul războiului în ceea ce priveşte surse autobiografice precum jurnale, însemnări zilnice sau scrisori ale femeilor care au fost prezente pe front în timpul Marelui Război. Sursele primare citate în această analiză includ scrisorile şi jurnalele asistentelor care au lucrat în unitatea Spitalelor Femeilor Scoţiene a Dr. Elsie Inglis dar şi „testamentul” Verei Mary Brittain, faimoasă voluntară englezoaică în VAD (Detaşamentele Voluntare de Ajutor), scriitoare şi activistă pentru drepturile femeilor. Printre sursele secundare uzitate în această analiză se numără volume importante scrise de Christine E. Hallett, Maxine Alterio, Santanu Das, Eric J. Leed şi Claire M. Tylee. Înainte de a ajunge la o concluzie, lucrarea de faţă scoate în evidenţă schimbările importante din discursul feminine faţă de război dar şi modul în care aceste modificări de mentalitate s-au datorat noului statut al femeilor, adică cel de participant direct pe front, cât şi datorită aspiraţiilor lor către drepturi egale şi tratament egal.
Keywords: World War 1, war propaganda, feminism, diaries, representations of war
CC BY-SA License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
Acknowledgements: This paper has been presented at the 11th international conference on Baltic and Nordic studies in Romania, Rethinking Europe in Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea Region, 28-29 May 2020.
An earlier draft of this paper has been published in Costel Coroban, A World of Distant Rumbling. The Great War and Scottish Nurses’ Diaries (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2019).

Full text in pdf: https://balticnordic.hypotheses.org/files/2020/11/06.-Coroban.pdf

 

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