Feature Articles - Women and WWI - Introduction

 Still today, when women are employed as professional soldiers by a number of state armed forces, we tend to believe that war is man's exclusive business.  This is plainly untrue, and has always been so, since war can't be reduced just to combat and, anyway, combat is no longer the sole province of man.

The First World War is of capital importance to understand the connection between women and war in the wide sense of the word - not just war as combat - because it intersects with crucial developments in the history of feminism.  Since women (and I'll refer here mainly to British women) got the vote in 1918, though limited to those over 30, apparently as a way to thank them for their immense contribution to the war effort, WWI is understood to have been a positive event for feminism, with all the contradictions this entails.

We only have to think of, on the one hand, the grief women endured throughout the war on account of the slaughter at the front of men they loved and, on the other, of the feminist defence of pacifism, to understand how bitter this victory over anti-suffragist currents must have been.

Sara Martin, Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona, Spain

Next - Women at the Front: Been There, Done That

"Plugstreet" was British slang to describe the Belgian village of Ploegsteert.

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Women and WWI