Western Tradition Since 1500
April 8, 2013
WOMEN IN WORLD WAR I
War generally presents a gruesome picture and effects that are far-reaching and widespread. The effects, in some circumstances, remain forever staining history with events the world simply wish it never experienced. Is war inevitable? This is a question that seems to have been settled on the affirmative. The UN has therefore focused on both dispute resolution mechanisms such as negotiation (generally diplomacy in the international scale) and arbitration and ‘humanizing’ the face of war. This is evidenced by the Geneva Convections on the Laws of War (jus in bello) which recognize the fact that war may sometimes be inevitable. The laws focus on protection of civilians, medical personnel, religious personnel and combatants who no longer engage in the violent activities (hors de combat). To enhance humane values during war, the treaties also regulate or impose complete ban on some weapons e.g. landmines, nuclear weapons among others. The experiences of the war have been extensively documented with some writers giving general accounts while others referring to specific identifiable cases. This is partially because of subjectivity of approach and where passion actually lies. For example Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu’s The Man Whose Heart They Could See gave a detailed account of a man who sustained grievous bodily injury the left he heart open while Zofia Nalkowska’s Tales From Warsaw gives the general state of Warsaw and adjacent towns and cities. She vividly creates the horrible picture of war that engulfs a once beautiful city. Accordingly the writers based on their experiences have brought out the crucial role of women in the battlefield and within the political elite focused on achieving that which is ideally good for the human race.
Previously women were not meant to actively participate in the war. The World War I presented one of the most demonstrative of women potential in field predominantly thought to be for men. They served the world different capacities recording their experiences. In a rather assertive tone Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence notes that women could even help end the war. She can be best described as a women’s rights activist particularly criticizing all laws, systems and business world describing them as only designed o benefit men. During the tumultuous times of the World War I she was among the few women whose contribution at the Hague International Congress of Women for Peace in 1915. She also engineered the formation of Women’s International League in Great Britain aimed at promoting peace between 1926 and 1935. As far as World War I is concerned she served in the Women’s Emergency Corps Committee which took care of Belgian refugees and also hired women to offer medical services in times of war. Emmeline also heavily criticized the disenfranchisement of women of the right to participate in democratic processes and the post war penalties imposed on Germany.
Writing in time of war, Emmeline opines that war can never end war. War can only be ended by independent thinking on democracy and an enlightened public opinion. This lends credence on the fact that engagement into war is largely due to selfish interest of a few individuals who misguide the public to perceive mostly non-existent danger. Men who bring war to the world must not guide the peace that follows for a repeat of war is highly likely. Reinforced democracy must exist in different hands. The writer argues that motherhood is an undeniable manifestation of humanity and I must not fade away. During the war period the position of women had been confined to household duties but Emmeline argues that this has to change. The women’s contribution to building democracy is vital as
usually speak with one vacation and passion unlike