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Women as Veterans in Britain and France after the First World War


Part of Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare

  • Date Published: February 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108444026

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About the Authors
  • This is the story of how women in France and Britain between 1915 and 1933 appropriated the cultural identity of female war veteran in order to have greater access to public life and a voice in a political climate in which women were rarely heard on the public stage. The 'veterans' covered by this history include former nurses, charity workers, secret service agents and members of resistance networks in occupied territory, as well as members of the British auxiliary corps. What unites these women is how they attempted to present themselves as 'female veterans' in order to gain social advantages and give themselves the right to speak about the war and its legacies. Alison S. Fell also considers the limits of the identity of war veteran for women, considering as an example the wartime and post-war experiences of the female industrial workers who led episodes of industrial action.

    • Proposes a bottom-up approach to the question of the impact of the war on women's lives by focusing on individual women's letters, diaries, memoirs, articles and speeches
    • Is the first history of the period, which tend to focus on single nations, to compare the histories of women in two nations, here France and Britain, allowing for a broader understanding of war's impact on women
    • Draws on a wide range of documents, publications and artefacts to explore the experiences of women from a wide range of social backgrounds
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'As we begin the crucial conversations on the legacy of the First World War for women a century later, Women as Veterans in Britain and France after the First World War will help lead the way. Alison S. Fell's smart and sophisticated analysis shows how and why some women's war stories could come to represent all women. Her skilful excavation of British and French women's wartime service and sacrifice and postwar self-presentations proves thoroughly captivating from start to finish.' Susan R. Grayzel, Utah State University

    'Fell retrieves activists who worked between the world wars to celebrate the forgotten 'sisters', nurses and other women whose service and sacrifices placed them next to their fallen 'brothers' in England and France. She draws out many-layered meanings of interwar commemorations and distinguishes the more traditional French gender models from English activism. Her work will speak to both historians and students of war literature.' Margaret R. Higonnet, University of Connecticut

    '… this is a comprehensive and well-crafted book, which drives the field forward and contributes to still-emerging debates about hierarchies of remembrance and the gendered memory of wartime sacrifice in Britain and France.' Philippa Read, French Studies

    'An important read for anyone interested in women in military service, veterans and their political influence, or the social impacts of war.' A. A. Nofi, The NYMAS Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108444026
    • length: 236 pages
    • dimensions: 150 x 230 x 10 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • contains: 23 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: back to the front: women as veterans
    1. Women as veterans in the commemorative landscapes of interwar Britain and France
    2. The afterlives of First World War heroines
    3. 'That glorious comradeship': female veteran groups in the 1920s
    4. Writing as a veteran: women's war memoirs
    5. Women's wartime industrial action and the limits of female veteran identity

  • Author

    Alison S. Fell, University of Leeds
    Alison S. Fell is Professor of French Cultural History at the University of Leeds and Director of the Leeds Humanities Research Centre. She is Co-Investigator of the Gateways to the First World War AHRC First World Public Engagement Centre. She regularly acts as a historical consultant and interviewee for television and radio, including the Woman's Hour drama The Camel Hospital and the BBC's The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire.

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