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Compare And Contrast The Role That Women Played In Both World War One And World War Two. To What Extent Did Women Expand Their Role In Society Between The Wars?

1299 words - 5 pages

Women's Support Roles in the World Wars Right up to the outbreak of World War I, feminists on both sides pledged themselves to peace, in transnational women's solidarity. Within months of the war's outbreak, however, "all the major feminist groups of the belligerents had given a new pledge - to support their respective governments." Suddenly, campaigners for women's suffrage became avid patriots and organizers of women in support of the war effort. Many of these feminists hoped that patriotic support of the war would enhance the prospects for women's suffrage after the war, and this came true in a number of countries.The more than 25,000 US women who served in Europe in World War I did so on an entrepreneurial basis, especially before 1917. They helped nurse the wounded, provide food and other supplies to the military, serve as telephone operators (the "Hello Girls"), entertain troops, and work as journalists. Many of these "self-selected adventurous women ... found their own work, improvised their own tools ... argued, persuaded, and scrounged for supplies. They created new organizations where none had existed." Despite hardships, the women had "fun" and "were glad they went." Women sent out to "canteen" for the US Army - providing entertainment, sewing on buttons, handing out cigarettes and sweets - were "virtuous women" sent to "keep the boys straight." Army efforts to keep women to the rear proved difficult. "Women kept ignoring orders to leave the troops they were looking after, and bobbing up again after they had been sent to the rear." Some of the US women became "horrifyingly bloodthirsty" in response to atrocity stories and exposure to the effects of combat. Looking back, the American women exhibited "contradictory feelings" of sadness about the war, horror at what they had seen, and pride in their own work. Mary Borden, a Baltimore millionaire who set up a hospital unit at the front from 1914 to 1918, wrote: "Just as you send your clothes to the laundry and mend them when they come back, so we send our men to the trenches and mend them when they come back again. You send your socks ... again and again just as many times as they will stand it. And then you throw them away. And we send our men to the war again and again ... just until they are dead."American Elsie Janis performed for British and French troops starting in 1914, and "anticipated Bob Hope in her devotion to entertaining the soldiery." Women entertainers were treated chivalrously by troops, not as sex objects. Doughboys behaved badly towards French women, but put American ones "on a pedestal that grew and grew," as Janis put it. One woman who stayed with 200 doughboys in a canteen near the front said she would feel comfortable leaving a 16-year-old daughter there alone, because "if any man touched her with his finger, these boys would tear him into a thousand pieces." Women entertained troops not only with song and dance but with lectures, dramatic readings, and poetry....

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