Private Wilby pleads with his fiancee that she remain the “same loveable little woman that I left behind” with the same “womanly little ways and nature.” Within the context of time period this type of language — “little woman” and “womanly little ways” — may have been common.
However, it strongly indicates a belief that men considered women to be a kind of sweet “thing,” like a baby or a fine object. In a more political document, Paul von Hindenburg, Chief of the German General Staff, writes of women’s agitation for rights.
Each of the World Wars acted as a catalyst for women’s rights and roles in society.
In WWI, many women were asked to take on traditionally male roles in order to support the war industry and to keep up production of other goods and services that typically were considered in a man’s domain.
In fact, the speaker says, “I spends the whole racket / On good times and clothes” because “We’re all here today, mate, / Tomorrow—perhaps dead.” Bedford could have utilized her position as a female writer to advance the representation of women as responsible, diligent earners.
Instead she makes them appear to be interested only in “silk stockings” and “good times.” That said, Bedford’s poem, in concert with the Countess’ praise of women labourers, does paint a portrait of women on the cusp of a demand for political self-determination.The caption below states: “Men and women protect one another in the hour of death.With the addition of the woman’s vote, they would be able to protect one another in life as well.” This comment directly relates to the incident of the sinking of a British hospital ship in 1915, in which British nurses died to give up spots on lifeboats to injured British soldiers. Some of my girls were killed outright, many were wounded.. .[but] our regiment alone captured two thousand prisoners.” Botchkareva-Yashka’s account boldly calls the men’s troops “cowards” while comparing them with the sacrificial and daring actions of the women’s regiment.In Britain, in the decades leading up to the first World War, views of women were heavily based on the image and person of Queen Victoria.She was considered almost angelic in her role as “mother,” “wife,” and “feminine woman.” Queen Victoria was lauded as the prime example of virtuous woman and mother; after her husband King Albert died, she denied involvement in politics, and instead became a secluded, devoted mother at Balmoral Castle.It is evident that women were expected to remain submissive and supportive, feminine and nurturing.Many men at the time concluded that women had neither the mental capability or social responsibility to participate in politics.The sacrifices of women on the front are portrayed as being minimized, or even seen as a threat, by male politicians.One magazine cartoon, titled “Votes for Heroines as well as Heroes,” portrays a mythic-looking woman with the title of “chivalry” on her head, standing above a male politician who is doggedly working against women’s right to vote.During the war, British men who were on the front also indicated their anxiety about the perceived shift in women’s interest in typically male-dominated work; for instance, Private G. Wilby writes to his fiance: “don’t develop into one of those ‘things’ that are doing men’s work...don’t spoil yourself by carrying on with a man’s work.” Hearkening back to the elevated image of Queen Victoria as an angel in the home, Private Wilby’s letter represents a broad societal expectation that women be untarnished by “men’s” work or concerns.However, this bias did not take into account the reality of lower class women already working in hard labour jobs out of necessity.