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I. Sharp, M. Stibbe, Aftermaths of War (Karen Hagemann)


Francia-Recensio 2011/4 19./20. Jahrhundert – Histoire contemporaine

Ingrid Sharp, Matthew Stibbe (ed.), Aftermaths of War Women’s Movements and Female Activists, 1918–1923, Leiden (Brill) 2011, XXII–428 p., 3 ill. (History of Warfare, 63). ISBN 978-90-04-19172-3, EUR 126,00.

rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

Karen Hagemann, Chapel Hill

After more than two decades of intensive research, the history of gender, military and war has become a developed interdisciplinary field. At first, the majority of the authors in this field were social and political scientist, since the early 1990s, military and war have also become increasingly important topics for women’s and gender history. The early research focused particularly on the question of women’s place in the history of the military and war, but the dimension of men and masculinity played a vital role from early on as well. The highly gendered demobilization after wars was already since the late 1980s an important theme.

The editors of this volume, Ingrid Sharp, Senior Lecturer in German at Leeds University, UK, and Matthew Stibbe, Reader in History at Sheffield Hallam University, want to contribute to this theme with a focus on the women’s movements and female activism between 1918 and 1923. They state in their introduction that most of the research on cultural demobilization and remobilization after World War I has focused on men and masculinity. This claim overlooks important earlier research on women, such as Mary Lou Roberts’ excellent book »Civilization without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1918–1928«, that appeared already in 1994 and is misleading, because Sharp and Stibbe’s book is built on this earlier research, as the introduction and many chapters demonstrate.

The volume is based on a conference held at the University of Leeds in September 2008 and a workshop that took place at the Academy of Sciences in Budapest in April 2009. Nineteen authors from fourteen different countries examine the importance of women's movements and individual female activists to the shaping of post-war Europe at the personal, communal, national, and transnational levels. The eighteen chapters cover a broad variety of defeated as well as victorious countries in Central, Eastern, and Western Europe, including Albania, Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. This unusual diversity with a clear focus on Central and Eastern Europe allows for a more nuanced understanding of the deep cultural, social, and political impact of the First World War in Europe. The chapters on the often ignored Central and Eastern European regions are an especially important contribution of the volume. The editors rightly emphasize that the boundary between war and peace was much more porous in this region than in Western Europe. After 1918, the stability of newly created nations in Central and Eastern Europe was not only challenged by revolution and upheaval, but also by the continuation of military struggle that lasted until 1921: the Russian civil war, the Polish-Ukrainian, the Hungarian-Romanian, or the Polish-Soviet war.

Four key themes structure the volume. The first part, »Commemoration, Remembering and Remobilization«, with chapters by Nikolao Vukov, Emma Schiavon, Chritiane Streubel, and Erika Kulmann, explores the gendered commemoration of the war dead and studies how gender informed memories of war. Most important is here the insight that irrespective of victory or defeat and the political system as well as the roles women had played during the war, women were not accepted as central to war memories, which focused in most countries on the sacrifice and heroism of the soldiers. In the second part, »The Renegotiation of Gender Roles«, the chapters by Ann Rea, Ingried Sharp, Olga Shnyrova, Fatmira Musja, and Beryl Nicholson study war and war demobilization as »gendering activities« (Margaret Higonnet) that are informed, on the one hand, by the tensions between the demands of the military that had to fight a highly industrialized total war and the needed war support of women, especially in the war industry, and, on the other hand, by a gender ideology that constructed separated spheres for men and women in the economy, culture and society and of course the family. After the war, many societies propagated as part of the demobilization a return to the pre-war division of labor between the sexes, which was, however, difficult to achieve after the transforming war experiences. Because most governments were aiming for national regeneration and social stability, they pursued a demobilization policy that privileged returning soldiers and promoted maternalism, domesticity, and clearly demarcated gender roles. However, competing ideas about the role and destiny of women arose within all post-war societies in the context of the women’s movement and sometimes also the labor movement, such as ideas that propagated equality and »comradeship« between the sexes.

In the third part, »Women’s Suffrage and Political Rights«, the essays by Christine Bard, Gabrielle Hauch, Judith Szapor, Sylwia Kuzma-Markowska, and Virginija Jurèniène analyze the changing position of women in politics. Contemporaries perceived women’s access to equal political citizenship as one major impact of World War I, which they believed were guaranteed by women’s suffrage. Between 1917 and 1921, women indeed gained a more or less limited active and passive franchise in eleven European countries. However, the authors can show that it was not so much the war, female war support, changing attitudes towards women, or the long-lasting feminist struggle for equal suffrage that helped to promote the cause of women’s rights, but the undermining of obsolete undemocratic political systems that had obstructed women’s rights by war and revolution. The chapters in this part show the post-war struggle of women for equal political rights, but also emphasize that the aims and priorities of the various women’s organizations after World War I were often controversial and highly contested.

In the last part, »Reconstructing Communities/Visions of Peace«, the essays by Judit Acsády, Matthew Stibbe, Bruce R. Berglund, David Hudson, and Jill Liddington examine women’s participation in cultural demobilization, pacifism, peace movements, and anti-war or anti-occupation campaigns after World War I. This participation reflects the nearly universal expectation of post-war cultures that healing the wounds of the war in family and society is a female task. Here again, the authors can demonstrate the diversity of positions held by female activists: some supported radical nationalist politics and fostered racism; some believed in the »natural« peacefulness of women and hoped that the world would become more peaceful with female suffrage and the entry of women into international politics; others were more skeptical and demanded broader cultural and educational changes, especially the dismantling of ideologies of nationalist hatred that had lead in their opinion to World War I.

This well-organized and well-edited volume with its focus on Central and Eastern Europe is an important contribution to the gendering of post-war culture and demobilization after World War I. It is an interesting read not only for experts of women’s and gender history, but anyone interested in European postwar history after 1918.

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PSJ Metadata
Karen Hagemann
I. Sharp, M. Stibbe, Aftermaths of War (Karen Hagemann)
CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0
Zeitgeschichte (1918-1945)
Europa, Osteuropa
Geschlechtergeschichte, Politikgeschichte
1900 - 1919, 1920 - 1929
4015701-5 4071428-7 4133612-4
1918-1923
Europa (4015701-5), Frauenbewegung (4071428-7), Politische Betätigung (4133612-4)
PDF document sharp-stibbe_hagemann.doc.pdf — PDF document, 91 KB
I. Sharp, M. Stibbe, Aftermaths of War (Karen Hagemann)
In: Francia-Recensio 2011/4 | 19./20. Jahrhundert - Histoire contemporaine
URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2011-4/ZG/sharp-stibbe_hagemann
Veröffentlicht am: 13.01.2012 17:00
Zugriff vom: 27.01.2020 01:21
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