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 1918-23

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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Title Exhibition: Ending War, Imagining Peace: Germany 1918 
Description Exhibition based on project research that gives a German perspective on the end of the war and focusses on German women's first hand accounts. This is an important deviation from exhibitions that empahisie the British war experience and the military aspects of the end of the war. It places a doubly marginalised perspective centre stage. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Number of visitors: Responses: Requests for loan of the exhibition: 2 Talks and events associated with the exhibition: 3 
URL https://peacemuseum.org.uk/hidden-from-history-voices-of-the-german-revolution-1918-1919/
 
Title Women of Aktion 
Description New play developed by partners Bent Architect based on research undertaken by PI and postdoc charting the lives of revolutionary women who had not previously been given a voice and putting them literally centre stage. The play toured the UK and Germany, was positively reviewed by audiences and critics (selected as What's on Stage top pick in October 2018). 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Change of perspective: audiences reported knowng little or nothing about the historical events portrayed and many expressed a desire to know more Empathy with German situation: audiences reported emotional engagement with the play and its protagonists and a shift in perspecttive to see Germans as victims of the war rather than perpetrators Women's history: audiences expressed change in perspective to see women's activities as revolutionary and political rather than personal and domestic. Change in practice of partners: Bent Architect reported a shift from local projects to an international outlook and from short research and development periods to a deeper engagement with the context. Access to first hand accounts in German through translation was important in the success of the play. 
URL http://www.bentarchitect.co.uk/women-of-aktion.html
 
Description The Weimar Republic has an important place in the history of Germany democracy, but a recognition of the strength of German women's political cultures and their role in shaping the post-war political landscape has been elusive. Women's experiences in the First World War and Weimar Republic have been extensively discussed, but often in ways that threaten to erase women's political agency. Moreover, the seismic shift signalled by women's suffrage has not been fore-grounded in accounts of democratic history, and women's roles in the revolution of 1918 have been largely overlooked. Taking a gender historical approach, the findings of this project have made women's political cultures visible in two key arenas important for an understanding of the post-war era: women's suffrage and women's revolutionary activism. While the focus of my own work has been on on the German national context, it is important to note that German women's organisations were embedded in international and transnational network organisations campaigning for women's social, professional and civic rights, and that their political cultures developed in dialogue with and full awareness of what was happening elsewhere in the world.
Exploitation Route Recognition of women's political cultures has an international dimension and can be used by researchers looking at different national contexts, especially those outwith Europe. There is alos much work to be doine in the ways in which women's activist history is presented in museums and ppopular history.
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. The findings have also fed into the outputs of another funded project, The Kiel Uprising, and have been the subject of renewed public interest coinciding with the centenary of the end of the war and its aftermath
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Creative Economy,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
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 Charity/Non Profit 
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 Kiel Uprising 
Organisation Bradford Peace Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Peace Museum in Bradford was keen to include the German perspective in plans to mark the centenary of the end of the war in 2018 and to look at the revolution in the broader context of anti-war activism in Germany. An exhibition based on the choices individuals made in 1918 that led to the collapse of the German war effort invited the visitor to reflect on the moral questions surrounding an individual's duty to the nation and to humanity in wartime. Research input from us was to provide narrative, analysis and information as well as images and a conceptual framework for the exhibition and to enhance the educational and engagement aspect by offering talks and Q&A sessions during the exhibition's display at the museum. We also offered talks to support the exhibition beyond the local area.
Collaborator Contribution The Peace Museum offered the venue for display, attracted large numbers of visitors to the exhibition from its established network of supporters and its publicity outlets. The exhibition was co-created with the Peace Museum, so we learned valuable skills in preparing and constructing a public-facing display. The PM also supported and enhanced the exhibition's effectiveness with artefacts and material from its collection anbd offered staff time and expertise in engaging with museum visitors and attracting a range of different groups to the exhibition.
Impact Exhibition: Ending War Imagining Peace: Germany 1918 https://peacemuseum.org.uk/ending-war-imagining-peace-germany-1918/ Exhibition: Women of Aktion: Revolutionary Women Ending War, Fighting for Peace (Peace History, Gender History) Talks (Peace History, Gender HIstory): October 2018: *Finding the Women: German Revolutionaries 1918/19; Sunderland Literature Festival; University of Sunderland October 2018: *Women of Aktion: Writing Women back into the German Revolution, 1918; Legacies of War seminar series, University of Leeds October 2018 *Hidden from History: German women as revolutionaries November 1918; Pickering Quakers March 2018 'Hidden from History: Voices of the German Revolution 1918-1919'; Peace Museum, Bradford (with Corinne Painter)
Start Year 2017
 
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 Invited contribution to planning workshop by the Kiel Maritime Museum, Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to particpate in this workshop in Kiel, Germany in order to plan the exhibition to mark the centenary of the Uprising in Kiel that sparked the German revolution of November 1918. This was an event aimed at advising the museum directors and local political funders so that the interpretation of the uprising should reflect current scholarship. I was only one of 2 international guests and the only speaker to focus on local women's activism.

As a result of the relationships formed, I returnd for the gala opening in 2017 and brought the play Women of Aktion to Kiel as part of the official commemorative programme in November 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.kiel.de/de/kultur_freizeit/museum/schifffahrtsmuseum_fischhalle.php
 
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 The Great War Diaries 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited to develop. script and deliver a programme based on international diaries giving first hand accounts of experience of WW1 in Germany, Russia, Italy, Austria and Britain
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2014/51/great-war-diaries
 
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