Thursday, August 7, 2014

World War 1 Widows: Source of War Myths?

What is myth and what is fact about World War 1 is a debate that has raged in many forums.  This discussion here highlights many of the main points of debate.  While most of the potential myths involve the manner in which the war was fought, I find it interesting there is a raging debate over the perception of the war at the time.  Today, we almost universally accept the fact the war was seen as futile and a horrible waste of life at the time, but several dissenters argue this was not the case.  If it's true the public saw the war in a positive light at the time it was fought, the question must be asked how did the popular perception of its futility take hold.

I think one possible answer to the above question might be found in this article, which details the stories of young women unable to find husbands because so many men in their age cohort died in the war.  This group of women disproportionately suffered the effects of the war, and would have developed a view of it that diverged greatly from the society around them, if it is true the society around them retained a positive view of the war.

The next question that must be asked is, if the widows' view of WW1 was divergent from the rest of society, why did it eventually win out?   I think the answer might lie in the fact that denied husbands, many of the women would have gone on to pursue careers, particularly in education, which was one of the few acceptable career paths for women at the time.  They would have taught the subsequent generations the war was futile, giving rise to the myth the war was always perceived this way.

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