Two representations of Edith Cavell

Discussion in 'Non-Military Biographies' started by liverpool annie, Aug 25, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    "Cavell was not a particularly well-known figure outside the field of nursing prior to the Great War" This allowed for the creation of two different depictions of her in British propaganda. British propaganda ignored anything that did not fit this image, including the suggestion that Cavell, during her interrogation, had given information that incriminated others. In November 1915, the British Foreign Office issued a denial that Cavell had implicated anyone else in her testimony.
    "The first representation was the distorted but highly emotive portrayal of her as the girlish innocent victim of a ruthless enemy with no sense of honour in its dealings with frail women" This depicted Edith Cavell as innocent of espionage, which was most commonly used in various forms of British propaganda, such as postcards and newspaper illustrations during the war. "The British Press presented her story in such a way as to capture the public imagination and fuel the masculine desire for vengeance on the battlefield". These important images implied that men must enlist in the armed forces immediately in order to stop the murder of innocent British females.
    The second representation of Cavell during World War I described her as a serious, reserved, brave, and patriotic woman who devoted her life to nursing and died to save others. This portrayal has been illustrated in numerous biographical sources, from personal first-hand experiences of the Red Cross nurse. Pastor Le Seur, the German army chaplain, recalled at the time of her execution, "I do not believe that Miss Cavell wanted to be a martyr…but she was ready to die for her country… Miss Cavell was a very brave woman and a faithful Christian" Another account from British chaplain, Reverend Gahan, remembers Cavell's brave words, "I have no fear or shrinking; I have seen death so often it is not strange, or fearful to me!" In this interpretation, "her gender made her remarkable enough to be remembered as an individual on a scale that, had she been a man, she would not have been"

    Nurse Edith Cavell was a British nurse during World War I. She was executed by the Germans and became a symbol of German brutality and the most famous female casualty of the war. Cavell was born in December 4, 1865 and she died by firing squad on October 15, 1915.

    During World War I, Edith Cavell was a nurse at a British field hospital in Belgium, which was later placed under Red Cross control after the German occupation. She continued to serve at the hospital after the Germans took over, but helped hundreds of British soldiers to escape to the neutral Netherlands in violation of German military law. Cavell was tried and convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad.

    The British did not attempt to intervene on her behalf because they felt that attempts to win her release would only anger the Germans and make it more likely that she would be executed. However, the United States who were at the time still neutral, advocated for the release of Nurse Cavell. The American ambassador in Belgium explained to the German government that executing Cavell would harm the Germans' reputation. He wrote:

    "We reminded him (Baron von der Lancken) of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania, and told him that this murder would stir all civilized countries with horror and disgust. Count Harrach broke in at this with the rather irrelevant remark that he would rather see Miss Cavell shot than have harm come to one of the humblest German soldiers, and his only regret was that they had not 'three or four English old women to shoot.'"

    The Germans executed Nurse Cavell by firing squad. Before she died, Cavell uttered a line which was to become famous and which is now inscribed on a statue of her which stands opposite the National Portrait Gallery in England. She stated: "Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."

    British propaganda elevated Nurse Cavell to the status of a martyr and her death became a sumbol of German brutality. War propaganda posters referenced the death of Cavell as a reason to fight the German barbarians.

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  2. Alexander

    Alexander Member

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