October 29, 2015
Women at War
With Remembrance Day approaching, One Day’s World War One drama workshop is ready to take your pupils back to wartime Britain. With the newly released Suffragette film in the cinemas and the first female bishop having taken her seat in the House of Lords earlier this week, we saw this as a great opportunity to take a look at the women of World War One and how they fought their own battle for equality.
Sunday 8th November 2015 marks Remembrance Day – often called Armistice Day or Poppy Day! This is a day for the nation to remember those civilians and service people who gave their lives and contributed in the World Wars.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, all guns in Europe fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare. Many people choose to wear poppies as a display of respect. The use of the poppy was originally inspired in 1921 by the World War One poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. The poem refers to the red poppies that were the first flowers to grow after the battle fields had been destroyed by years of fighting…
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place…
Meanwhile, amongst all the violence, women in Britain were fighting their own battle for suffrage, which means ‘the right to vote in political elections’ – hence ‘suffragette’. Amendments that would have given women the right to vote on the same terms as men were proposed before war broke out, but were rejected.
With the commencement of World War One, the suffragette movement in Britain largely moved away from its militant activity and focused its efforts of organisation on the War effort. To replace the thousands of men who had gone to fight in the War, women volunteered to take on traditionally ‘male’ work, which led to a new view of women’s capabilities. By doing so, women proved themselves as equal to men and their argument for their right to vote strengthened.
Thanks to a combination of the suffragettes’ tenacity and contribution to the War efforts, British women eventually began to gain political recognition and were finally given the right to vote, on equal terms to men, in 1928.
In light of this, I’d like to end with a War poem by feminist poet and writer, Vera Brittain, who made a significant contribution to the War by leaving her studies in Oxford to serve as a Voluntary Aid Nurse in Europe:
The Lament of the Demobilised
“Four Years,” some say consolingly. “Oh well,
What’s that? You’re young. And then it must have been
A very fine experience for you!”
And they forget
How others stayed behind and just got on –
Got on the better since we were away.
And we came home and found
They had achieved, and men revered their names
But never mentioned ours;
And no one talked heroics now, and we
Must just go back and start again once more.
“You threw four years into the melting-pot –
Did you indeed!” these others cry. “Oh well,
The more fool you!”
And we’re beginning to agree with them.
Love Aimee and the One Day Team x