chapter  3
32 Pages


This chapter examines the ways in which European women's identities and roles were affected by the exigencies of wartime. It then considers their roles as civilians and combatants, as workers, as sexual beings and as patriots or pacifists. The Great War has been made to bear a great deal of interpretative weight by historians of women. It comes at the end of a period of feminist activism and caps several decades of quite profound change in women's experience, and is easy to view as a turning point or a catalyst. Both governments and women themselves contributed to the destabilising of gender identities, the former as a consequence of the need to maintain the war effort and the latter as a response to the demands and freedoms experienced in wartime conditions. Whilst governments tried to discipline women's sexuality and became obsessed with morale they lost sight of changes in women's political consciousness fuelled by economic concerns.