2020 applicants
News

Women and the First World War

  • Date

    Wed 26 Sep 18

German soldier inspects documents of women in occupied France, First World War

A free public lecture, marking 100 years since the end of the First World War, will explore the impact of the war on the lives of women.

Leading modern European and gender historian, Professor Susan Grayzel, will ask whether women had a ‘great’ war on 10 October at our Colchester Campus.

Hosted by our Department of History, the event will look at how women’s lives changed as a result of total war, what opportunities opened for them to play active roles, and the impact on their personal lives.

Professor Grayzel, from Utah State University, said: “I’ll emphasise the diversity and complexity of women’s experiences during the war, and show why they are integral to understanding the war itself.

“I’ll be asking what we can learn when we reframe the war story to put women into it not merely based on exceptional roles but in terms of their everyday lives, which the war deeply affected.”

Professor Lucy Noakes, from our Department of History, is working on a research project on gender, citizenship, and civil defence in twentieth-century Britain with Professor Grayzel. She explained how varied women’s war experiences were: “In Britain, women moved into a range of jobs previously understood as male such as munitions work, engineering and farming.

“They also worked on or close to the front line as nurses and doctors and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Services to ‘support’ combatants.”

Professor Lucy Noakes
"Women everywhere had to live with the death of loved ones, and spent years nursing men who returned from the war with physical and psychological injuries."
Professor Lucy Noakes department of history

Around the world too women’s lives were turned upside down: “In France and Belgium women were refugees, and those living close to the front had to try and protect their families from poison gas and shelling,” Professor Noakes added.

“Mothers in Nepal took to the mountains to hide their sons from the recruiting parties that were signing them up for the war. Women everywhere had to live with the death of loved ones, and spent years nursing men who returned from the war with physical and psychological injuries.”

Did women have a ‘Great War’? takes place in LTB2 on 10 October, 5pm-6.30pm. Admission is free. Reserve your seat.

Autumn 2018 also marks the centenary of the German revolution, in which women played key roles. Women of Aktion at the Lakeside Theatre on 15 October explores the role of women in the creation of the German democracy.