Women's Organisations and Female Activists in the Aftermath of War: International Perspectives 1918-1923

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Abstract

Recent developments in the social and cultural history of modern warfare have done much to shed new light on the experience of the First World War, and in particular how that experience was communicated in popular and high culture, and in acts of remembrance and commemoration after 1918. Above all the new historiography has shifted emphasis away from narratives centred on high politics and strategy alone, and has challenged the idea that the war came to an end with the cessation of military hostilities in November 1918. Indeed, away from the western front the war continued through conflicts over the repatriation of refugees and POWs; revolutionary and counter-revolutionary violence in parts of central Europe; and new ethnic and national conflicts arising from the collapse of the former Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.
Within this context, the role of organised women's movements and female activists in the post-war period takes on a new importance, especially when seen from a transnational and comparative perspective. Two international conferences on the response of the organised women's movement to the outbreak, duration and aftermath of war, organised by the investigators in 2005 and 2008 and later transformed into two edited volumes of essays, have identified a distinctive and clearly focused area of enquiry and established strong links between an informal group of international scholars eager to take the project forward. The group is both highly international - researchers from eleven different nations working on the women's organisations within some fourteen nations - and highly interdisciplinary. The international nature of the group and especially the involvement of a significant number of researchers from central and eastern Europe facilitates genuine comparative work which will also be enhanced by the different methodological approaches of the historians, social scientists, gender specialists and researchers into literature, culture and film.
Funding under the Research Network scheme would enable this informal network to become a cohesive and sustainable group and the proposed schedule of workshop-style meetings would allow it to make rapid progress in knowledge and understanding.
Although the research questions will be defined and clarified during the course of the project, major comparative themes such as citizenship, suffrage, nationalism, and women's desire to respond to extremes of need in the post-war era (dislocation, internment, violence and hunger) will be the starting point of our investigation. The group will examine the role of women's organisations and female activists in cultural demobilisation, referring to the 'dismantlement of the mindsets and values of wartime' (John Horne), which has become a major theme in recent international conferences. The launch in December 2008 of a major research project, Paramilitary Violence After the Great War, 1918-1923: Towards a Global Perspective, funded by the Irish Research Council and focusing largely on the response of younger men to the aftermath of the war, provides a welcome point of comparison here, especially in relation to understanding gendered responses to the challenges of de- and remobilisation.
The group will also examine the work of organisations which were able to move across international borders, such as the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and individual activists such as the campaigner on behalf of prisoners of war and their families, Elsa Brändström, and the journalist Eleanor Franklin Egan, who reported on the social conditions throughout post-war Europe. The role of such women and organisations in bringing about reconciliation and facilitating cooperation between former enemy nations will also be examined, as will the role of nationalist women's organisations in maintaining discourses of war and in facilitating the rise of new forms of ethno-nationalism and racial intolerance during the period 1918-.

Planned Impact

The PI has considerable experience of working with partners, most recently with Routes into Languages (the HEFCE-funded project launched in 2006 to encourage the study of Modern Languages), the Bradford Peace Museum and Opera North, and will therefore take the lead in ensuring that the findings of the group are disseminated beyond the academy. Several events are planned to share our ideas with the wider community. The international perspective and the potential for challenging popular myths about gender relations and feminist activities during this period make this aspect especially interesting and worthwhile. In the US, for example, the popular imagination has more often been captured by the events of the Second World War, so the opportunity for a US audience to engage with US involvement in and representation of the First World War is invaluable. In the UK, the aim will be to broaden popular understanding of the war experience beyond that of male soldiers in the trenches of the Western Front.

The University of Leeds has well-developed structures for supporting impact activities with a Director of KT/Impact at Professorial level, a project officer and a range of established and active strategic partnerships. All the network activities will feed into ambitious plans involving a number of local partners for marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014, will be fully supported by the Faculty and will continue to have resonance beyond the funded period. Our US partner, Hamline, situated in St Paul, Minnesota, has been chosen for its long-standing commitment to sharing knowledge with the local community and the funding offered by its endowed Chair in the Humanities will partly be used to support a day-time event aimed at local schools and colleges and an evening round table discussion aimed at the wider public to follow on from the open workshop in September 2011. At Sheffield Hallam University, Clare Midgley is also interested in exploring knowledge transfer opportunities with us in relation to her above-mentioned five-year term as President of the IFRWH. In all three institutions, the Press offices have considerable experience in marketing and publicising KT events and disseminating key findings.

At Leeds, two events are planned in March 2013. The first will be a widening participation event aimed at schools within the White Rose consortium (both Sheffield Hallam and Leeds are members) and will use a mix of short lectures, interactive workshops and panel discussion to address popular myths about the experience of the First World War as outlined above. In particular it will challenge the notion that the war represented a 'watershed' for gender relations and, through its focus on women activists, broaden public understanding of what constitutes a wartime experience.

The second event will work with Centres based at the University of Leeds, including the Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS) and the Centre for Jewish Studies as well as our community partners, the Bradford Peace Museum, the faith organisation Pax Christi and its partner, Fellowship of Reconciliation. We will also issue invitations to further interested institutional parties. These will include the Women's Library in London and one of our strategic partners, the Royal Armouries, which is based in Leeds. In an exploratory workshop held at the Leeds Humanities Research Institute, we will present short discussion papers exploring gendered approaches to conflict resolution and the aftermath of conflict. We will use our key concept of 'cultural demobilisation' to examine the role of organised women's groups and individual female activists in the aftermath of other conflicts, both contemporary and historical, from a variety of perspectives. This forum, which brings together researchers and activists, will allow us to test the

Publications

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Description As planned, the network activities drew together scholars from a variety of disciplines and national contexts, with a specific aim of bringing the study of women's activism in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe, which has previously been less well integrated into international scholarship on the First World War and its aftermath, into dialogue with work on western Europe and the US. The combination of steering committee meetings with international conferences held in the US (Hamline University, St. Paul,. Minnesota) and Hungary (Academy of Sciences, Budapest) was extremely successful in drawing in researchers from both these areas and a wider network has developed: in the course of the network's development, we attracted interest and co-opted major scholars on France and the UK (Professor Susan Grayzel, Mississippi and Dr Julie Gottlieb, University of Sheffield) with specialisms in gender history and cultural representation and suffrage, We also worked closely with Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers not originally included in the bid; Dagmar Wernitznig, PhD candidate at the University of Oxford, Veronika Helfert, PhD candidate at the University of Vienna and Dr Pavlina Bobic, Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham.



In post-war scholarship, French and British paradigms have often dominated and the emphasis on nations seen as marginal has challenged this. At the two conferences, we heard 51 papers from a total of 42 scholars, of which 19 explored the situation of women's organisations and activists in Central or Eastern Europe. The exchange of information and discussion of themes has had the effect of challenging ideas and conclusions based on a narrower understanding of experience that usually excluded Eastern European perspectives. The first effect of the network was to overcome a tendency to universalise experiences of any one nation or group of nations and to look instead for differences and commonalities that would give a real insight into the specificity of the immediate post-war period.

In the course of the network discussions, we identified Hungary as a key case study as a defeated nation carved out of the dissolved Austro-Hungarian empire, subject to revolution and counter revolution (moving from liberal regime to red terror to conservative authoritarianism between 1918-1920) in the post-war period and struggling with issues of national identity as well as the post-war problems of redrawn national borders, refugees and economic and social instability in the aftermath of war. The women's movement in Hungary's response is symptomatic of broader problems facing women's activism during our period. It was forced to adapt rapidly to these changing and challenging circumstances and developed and retained international networks based on female suffrage and resistance to war, while the existence of substantial Hungarian minorities living beyond the new state boundaries reinforced Hungary's unstable national identity at home.



Another key finding that arose through our discussions was the identification of 1922 as a key date across the majority of the nations under discussion.

Alongside the emphasis on Eastern and Central Europe was an enquiry into how international and transnational groups interacted with national organisations and a desire to debate and articulate the extent to which women activists and organised feminist groups aided or combatted cultural demobilisation and remobilisation during this period. The discussions identified a parallel rise in internationalism and nationalism, with new right-wing women's movements springing up in the wake of war and seeking to influence the basis of women's citizenship in newly enfranchised nations as well as the nature of commemoration and collective memory of the war. At the same time transnational networks could be deliberately used to promote more narrow national interests.

These findings and emphases are reflected and further developed in the experimental nature of the methodology employed in the major output, planned for publication with Bloomsbury Press in 2017 and now at press. In order to overcome the parallel or comprehensive account approach adopted by most edited volumes, including the previous volume edited by Sharp and Stibbe, a volume of thematically coherent, co-authored chapters of 15,000 words will be produced, each with an interdisciplinary, often international team of authors who approach the problem from a different perspective as well as from a variety of national contexts. The network has enabled the groups to meet a number of times and establish the mutual respect, inclusive attitude and trust necessary for this approach, highly unusual outside the scientific disciplines, to be successful. The inclusion of established scholars and ECRs in the writing teams has allowed for a helpful combination of fresh ideas and mentoring to develop within the group. The themes identified already represent substantial findings that will make a significant contribution to scholarship and understanding of the First World War and the collaborative links between the scholars within the group will endure beyond the lifetime of the network and well beyond the deadlines for publication.

It has been important to strike the right balance between thematic coherence and paying due attention to national discourses and the final meeting of the steering committee was largely dedicated to an intensive editorial meeting at which problems were aired and joint solutions found.

Individual scholarship has also developed and flourished as a result of the network, with a planned special issue of the Women's History Review on transnational networks published in 2016 in which individual articles by the steering group and network members including Sharp, Kuhlman, Gottlieb and Jenson, will draw on the findings of the previous two years.

The international community of First World War scholars as a whole has benefitted from a network which will challenge the primacy of the British and French experience and has posed new questions about women and the war's aftermath. Publications by individual network members have been influenced by their involvement with the project - for example a Special Issue of the Women's History Review on Suffrage in the post-war period (2014) includes articles by both Sharp (on Germany) and di Cenzo (on internationalism), which broadened the focus beyond British and French experiences. Stibbe has written a thematic article on women's mobilisation for and resistance to war in Germany for a new online International Encyclopaedia of the First World War, to be launched by the Freie Universität Berlin in summer 2014 - see http://www.1914-1918-online.net

The findings of the network have been shared with the wider community, both through open sessions at Hamline and Budapest and through the activities of the Legacies of War project at the University of Leeds. The PI, who leads the Resistance to War strand within this project has been working with community groups to broaden local understanding of the conflict as well as reaching out to German community partners through the Town Twinning programme. Most of the dissemination of the findings of this network will come under the umbrella of the high-profile Legacies of War project, which has the full support of the institution and which will allow us to maximise impact by tapping into established networks that include the academic network of the IWM North Events as well as the White Rose Consortium. Both the PI and CI have become members of a liaison group based at the Imperial War Museum North in Salford, Greater Manchester, which brings together academics and museum experts to discuss joint ventures during the World War I centenary period (2014-2019).

A series of events aimed at the wider community have continued to disseminate the findings of the network throughout the centenary, for example:

2014:

January: PI gave talk at IHR, London, aimed at a mixed audience

March: World War One study day hosted by the University of Leeds

April: CI to give a talk to the University of the Third Age (U3A) in Sheffield on German experiences of the First World War

April: Headingley LitFest: war poetry in translation from Eastern and Central Europe (in collaboration with the post-graduate Literary Translation students)

July: Summer School in Portugal on Gender and the First World War organised by Shnyrova with the academic input of SC members Acsady, Vukov and Sharp.
The PI has continued to speak at public events and academic conferences, with more engagement planned for the remaining centenary years:
October 2017: Making a Stand Against the War: German Resistance to War, Kansas Military Museum
June 2017: Käthe Kollwitz: Art as Activism 1918-45 Peace History Conference, Imperial War Museum London [150]
January 2017: Gendering Peace, University of Sheffield
April 2016: DAAD Conference, Germany Past, Present and Future, Leeds
September 2016: Women against the War: Pacifism and Internationalism in the women's movement 1914-1924: Women and Modern Wars, Lisbon
September 2015: Italian Women and the First World War, University of Rome (Roma Tre)
February 2015: Network for Peace AGM
November 2014: Women in German Studies, Cambridge
October 2014: Peace History Conference, Imperial War Museum, London 'Minna Cauer, feminist resistance to war' [150]

The PI also organised a Resistance to War conference in March 2016 that included an emphasis on present day activism, including feminist activism, the legacy of Conscientious Objection led by peace historian Cyril Pearce and with input from community partners Bradford Peace Museum and the Anti-War Museum, Berlin as well as a number of local groups, including artists and filmmakers.
Exploitation Route The identification of key themes and commonalties can be used as a starting point, especially with the publication of our findings as a co-authored book and special issue of a leading journal in 2017.

The findings of the group challenge historiographical approaches to the Revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe and this has been taken forward as a research theme and as a project centring on the German Revolution in Kiel 1918. These findings have fed into the
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The findings contributed to the BBC MOOC listed under outputs and network members have contributed to print and digital media (radio, television, newspapers). They have been used in planning the centenary commemorations of the Kiel Revolution of November 1918 and have contributed to public understanding of the war from a German women's perspective.
Sector Creative Economy,Education
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description AHRC follow-on funding for impact and Engagement scheme (Highlight Creative Economy)
Amount £153,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/P013317/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 07/2018
 
Description Gateways to the First World War 
Organisation University of Kent
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This is a funded project to increase knowledge of the First World War working with community partners. As leader of the Resistance to War strand of the Legacies of War project at the University of Leeds, I am developing public-facing activities in Leeds.
Collaborator Contribution Funding, dissemination, sharing of ideas and perspectives.
Impact The measurable outcomes relate to a conference planned for 2016 and community activities associated with it.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Imperial War Museum Academic Network 
Organisation Imperial War Museum North
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Present at founding meetings and influential in determining the development of the network through discussion.
Collaborator Contribution This is an advisory network that meets at the IWMN to discuss aspects of the FWW that then inform exhibitions produced by the IWMN. A good example is the current From Street to Trench exhibition that made use of our local and regional knowledge in its design.
Impact The CDA on pacifism and protest arose from this network. The collaboration includes experts from History, Modern Languages, Literary studies, Military History. The main outcome is the influence on the exhibition at IWMN and the opportunity for sharing information, practice and ideas that the network facilitates.
Start Year 2013
 
Description BBC MOOC Changing Faces of Heroism in the First World War 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact MOOC has attracted 500 comments for each of the activities. Not all relate to gender or the women's organisations, but it is very strongly part of the programme as a whole and Alison Fell, part of the network, is the academic lead.

The MOOC will run until November 27th so it is too early to say.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/ww1-heroism/
 
Description Continuing Professional Development on Gender perspectives on the First World War 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Series of workshops, lectures and activities made participants aware of key issues in gender history, The feedback for my sessions was very positive and individual participants asked many questions in both formal and informal settings.

The organiser of this programme has invited me to be a regular contributor and reports that my sessions scored most highly in terms of satisfaction among participants. The participants were from a large variety of disciplines and covered much of Russia and the Ukraine. They displayed enormous interest in gender issues, not just in terms of history. I was formally invited to take part in a commemorative conference in Kaliningrad, but was unable to attend due t previous commitments. I contributed an article based on my input to a Russian-language journal of military history.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Contribution to The Great War Debate panel discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This is a series of government funded panel debates inviting pupils and teachers to discuss aspects of the first world war with expert panellists. I provided the German and women's perspective on the outbreak of the war and the peace conference. Audiences were very engaged and polls showed that 50%cchanged their minds on key issues as a result of the debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://www.hopscotchconsulting.co.uk/our_work/display/the-great-war-debate
 
Description Interviews for Austrian and German-language Radio on women's organisations in the First World War 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I have not had feedback from listeners, but the interviewers both told me that they had not known about the women's response to the war.


The response of the interviewers suggested that I was providing new information. In the report I listened to myself, my interview was given prominence, suggesting that it was considered an important aspect of the programme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description Italian Women and WW1 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 90 students, academics, teachers and members of the public gathered to learn more about Italian women's role in WW1. My talk was an introduction to the wider context and I spoke about internationalism in the women's movement before during and after the war. Feedback suggested that this was very useful to set the scene for more focussed discussion of Italian women's contribution.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Peace History Conference: feminist resistance to the war. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and comments afterwards, plus follow-up e-mails saying that the emphasis of the talk (German feminists opposing the war)was normally missing from debate in the UK

The Peace Conference normally meets in Manchester and London, but suggests coming to Leeds in 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.networkforpeace.org.uk/calendar/maw/2014/oct/peace-history-conference-2014
 
Description Public Lecture at Selwyn College Cambridge 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact x
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/whatson/detail.shtml?uid=47da89c8-2fba-4ceb-aafe-8c650984363c
 
Description Public Lecture at the Wiener Library 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Very lively debate afterwards and follow-up emails from participants and those who had not been able to attend.

The audience were interested in the nuanced responses of individual women and groups as well as the specific responses of Jewish women's organisations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.wienerlibrary.co.uk/Whats-On?item=150
 
Description Talk on Pacifism in Germany at the Imperial War Museum North 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Questions suggested a lack of awareness that there had been a number of groups resisting the First World War in Germany

I believe that talking about resistance to war in Germany to an interested audience (they had chosen to visit the IWMN FWW exhibition) adds another perspective to our understanding of the war.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://m.iwm.org.uk/events/iwm-north/perspectives14-resistance
 
Description Women and Modern Wars Lisbon 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact opening keynote at international conference open to academics, postgraduates and the general public. The programme included a round table with journalists and nurses who had been active during recent conflicts
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Women in the Kiel Revolution 1918 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A workshop organised by Kiel City Council and the Kiel Maritime Museum to discuss the best way to commemorate the centenary of the revolution of November 1918. My contribution was to draw their attention to the role of women activists in the revolution and in shaping the new republic. This is a neglected aspect of the events and I was able to ensure the inclusion of local women in the exhibition and events planned for 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016