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[Comments] (8) Righteous Indignation: I went to the Kern County library today to get an audio book (I got Angela’s Ashes, but the pickings were pretty slim. I have Sense and Sensibility and then a bunch of books I don’t want to listen to/have already read…what I really want is Shopaholic and Sister, the new Sophie Kinsella book, so I’ll check out the LA County library which I hope has better offerings.) and also to see if they have any WWI books of interest. I found a neat looking love story based on truth about a British guy who gets caught behind enemy lines, is disguised as part of a French village, falls in love with a local girl, they have a baby, he is betrayed &c &c, so I got that for mom to read since I probably won’t have time until the new year, and a Flora Sandes biography which we may have already… I was reminded of my lovely summers in high school where my time was occupied with either summer school or work, and reading. I dug deep into Mom’s book of the month club literary classics—the Bronte Sister, Austen—widely expanded my own Nora Roberts collection, and went to the library to hunt for random fiction books to read which I usually enjoyed quite thoroughly. I think most of the books I have read, aside from the school reading that most people do such a Brave New World and Macbeth, are from that era. Oh for the days when I had so much time for reading that wasn’t all about British Women in World War I! (Which is of course very interesting but one does like to read about other things as well.) I’m hoping the audio books will solve some of that for me. But the fact remains that I have a reading list of about a dozen books people have lent to me, and at the rate I am going, about 2 non-work books per month, I’ll never finish! Audio books while driving!! Oh I bet I can get them through ILL, too. Hurrah.

Anyway, the point of this post is that while I was in the library I picked up a random, generic (Illustrated) history of WWI to see what is says about women. I looked up Scottish Women’s Hospitals, Elsie Inglis, Women in the index and… nothing. I randomly stumbled across a two page spread that had pictures of ammunitions factories and mentioned the WAAC and the WRNS, both of which were formed rather late in the war. That was it.

This just reinforced the fact that history is the story of those that tell it, and the male view has for a long time dominated. Dr Kanner said that one of the most respected (male) British historians got up at a conference one year and said that the only thing women contributed to the war was in their capacity a camp followers… which is ridiculous. It wasn’t even the nursing and the cooking and the driving and the signaling, though that was enough in itself, and I’m beginning to see, even, hardly recognized for the worth of that alone. But these women did amazing things. Flora Sandes joined the Serbian Army and fought with them, becoming a Sergeant. The Scottish Women’s Hospital alone practically saved Serbia, certainly more than the Allied armies did to help: retreating with them, and being taken prisoner in order to stay with the wounded and care for them. Gertrude Bell was the reason for the success of T E Lawrence’s campaign—she gave him the maps to get to Baghdad! But of course she wasn’t allowed to go along because she was a woman. Most of the women’s organizations, especially the ones formed at the beginning of the war, worked for foreign armies, because they were refused by the British War Office. Most of the women in these organizations—fully trained doctors and nurses—had offered their services to help their own countrymen first, but had been told to “Go home and sit still.” Gah.

I must stop now, it just upsets me so that the contributions of these women to history have been so widely ignored by those who write it. But I guess that gives me something to change


Posted by Chris at Tue Oct 26 2004 07:51

Aside from your point about men taking over the perspective of history (which I can say is a pretty valid point), I must also remind you that you were in the Kern County Library. I'm sure there are plenty of other random generic histories of WWI that do focus more on women. Between men and the Kern County Library, I would place more fault on the library. But then that's me. I'm always wary about places that let you borrow things for free....

Posted by Becca at Tue Oct 26 2004 21:04

Well, technically I don't think they let you borrow for free, seeing as I'm sure their money to buy books comes some what from taxes.

But, if you think history is bad, you should try looking into philosophy. I think the first women listed in my history of philosophy books is Mary Wollstonecraft, and she's pretty late. After that, the next one would probably be Debauv... whatever. The French woman existentialist. But now its time for class, so I can't finish my tirade on the lack of female voices in the philosophical world. Sadly, most of the women recognized now days are scary feminists, and I'm not going to go into that. Suffice to say I think most of them should get a real job and shut up. Not all, but most.

Posted by Kristen at Wed Oct 27 2004 00:51

Hey, I am listening to Angela's Ashes on tape too. I am really enjoying it. Are you?

Posted by Susie at Wed Oct 27 2004 03:22

Oh, I knew someone else was reading that. I think it's partly that women weren't allowed to do a lot of the high profile stuff (ie. lead the country to war). So that makes for a lot more important male figures in history.

Posted by Rachel at Wed Oct 27 2004 03:45

Chris: Actually, the library's not too bad. All general WWI books are pretty much the same, just varying degrees of quality, and I've looked in enough of them to know that, unless it specifically focuses on women, it doesn't give their roll the amount of importance that [I feel] they deserve.

In a way Susie's quite right, but a lot of histories do tell the story of the role of the common, while ignoring to role of the common women.

Kristen: I am really loving Angela's Ashes, although it is very sad!

Posted by Kristen at Wed Oct 27 2004 23:40

It is really sad. I can't imagine what their family goes through. I really enjoy Frank McCourt's own voice reading it too. I think it adds a nice touch. He really knows how to tell a story, and it is cool how he does it from a 4 yr old's perspective too.

Don't you think it is funny how they call things "the drink" or "the hunger" or "the stick"?

Posted by Rachel at Thu Oct 28 2004 02:14

yes, I really do love his voice, especially as it grows up as his character ages. I guess "the" is an idiocracy of Irish speak! I actually look forward to driving now, because I get to listen to the book!!

Posted by Susie at Thu Oct 28 2004 04:21

you can't get an opinion of Rachel about saying "the drink". She would prefer to say "le drink." =)

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