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Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War, what women did and what they weren't allowed to do!, 8 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One (Kindle Edition)
At the end of WWI few (women) 'realised how much they had done for future generations. They had become citizens. Even if the law, prejudice and convention were still obstacles to full recognition, they had taken great strides towards equality, leaving footprints all over traditional male-only territory.'

Kate Adie's excellent history of women's involvement from all walks of life in the war machine made me think deeply about how far we've come in a century. By taking concrete examples from all walks of life, the 'glamour' of the nursing staff, the well-known munitionettes and Land Girls, to the women who clean the trains (but were never allowed to drive), the clippies on the trams, the poster-pasters and the skeleton women's police force, she shows us women determined to do their bit, to prove that they were not the equal of men, but a more-than-acceptable replacement, women who fought in their own way just as hard as men for victory. Their grit and determination and sheer hard work wasn't so much surprising to me as the obstacles put in their way. We forget that 1914 was an Edwardian world of clearly-defined class positions and extremely rigid sex discrimination. Women were the weaker sex - literally, physically and mentally. They were the guardians of morality - and therefore to blame when morality 'failed'. French brothels were accepted, the very idea of a British woman mingling with the troops though, would damn them all. The resistance to women doing their bit, even when that encompassed the nurturing roles such as nursing for which they were accepted, was unbelievable, and Kate Adie's book is unbelievable full of examples.

It's a book about the politicisation of women, but it's also a book about the failure - or perhaps I should say the limitation - of it. It's a book that shows how women succeeded by playing to the strengths learned the hard way before the war - of organisation and mass mobilisation - through the much-derided women's suffragist movements. It's a book that made me think about why women don't seem to have been so traumatised by the war as men - Adie argues that because expectations of courage were so low, they couldn't fail, an interesting perspective. And it's a very readable book too - it's not just for the history buff, not just for the feminist, you don't even have to know much about the War. It's not a military history, and in fact the War itself is largely absent from it. But it brings the War slap bang into perspective, a century after it started.
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