White Feathers

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    There are a numerous recorded heartbreaking instances of men returning from France on leave, often having been wounded, changing into civvies and promptly being given a white feather ...... in late 1914 and in 1915 that scene was happening every day - all over the country.

    At the outbreak of war women were used to great effect in recruitment. The Government used propaganda posters to encourage women to persuade their men-folk to volunteer ..... those who had been in conflict with the Government prior to the war - such as the Suffragettes - now played an active part in encouraging recruitment - by making a number of speeches in support of the war outlining what men and women could do to help.

    The term “white feather” came from cock-fighting .... some game birds had white feathers in their tail and so to show the white feather was to turn tail .... “Showing the white feather” was a term used for human cowardice throughout the nineteenth century.

  2. John

    John Active Member

  3. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    The Four Feathers movie depicts this act.

    The 1939 version seems to be the best and is definitely my favourite. The last with Heath Ledger was absolutely terrible.

    Year Title Country Director Notes
    1915 Four Feathers Flag of the United States J. Searle Dawley Black-and-white, silent

    1921 The Four Feathers Flag of the United Kingdom René Plaissetty Roger Livesey appeared in a minor role. Black-and-white, silent.

    1929 The Four Feathers Flag of the United States Merian C. Cooper, Lothar Mendes,
    Ernest B. Schoedsack Richard Arlen, Fay Wray, Clive Brook.

    1939 The Four Feathers Flag of the United Kingdom Zoltan Korda Starring Ralph Richardson, John Clements, C. Aubrey Smith, June Duprez. Considered by many to have been the best of the film versions, this was lavishly filmed in colour on many of the real African locations.

    1955 Storm Over the Nile Flag of the United Kingdom Terence Young, Zoltan Korda Starring Anthony Steel, James Robertson Justice, Ian Carmichael, Ronald Lewis, Michael Hordern. A low-budget color remake, using much of the location footage shot for the 1939 version of The Four Feathers, and exactly the same script - one of the few instances in which this was done.

    1977 The Four Feathers Flag of the United Kingdom Don Sharp Starring Robert Powell, Simon Ward, Beau Bridges, and Jane Seymour. Completely remade for a new generation (though several scenes have been inserted from the 1939 version (e.g. the troops boarding the train in London, a panorama featuring dhows on the Nile, the British army on parade) with a great deal of skill so that the lifting of these excerpts is far from obvious to those who have not seen the 1939 version), the classic tale retains its imperial stiff upper lip and Boys Own style of adventure heroics.

    2002 The Four Feathers Flag of the United States Shekhar Kapur Starring Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, and Kate Hudson. Made by an Indian director, this version takes a somewhat revisionist stance on the original novel's themes of masculinity, empire and the clash of Western and Islamic civilisations. Unlike previous versions, this version centres its big battle scene on the 1885 Battle of Abu Klea (thirteen years before Omdurman), when British soldiers were still wearing red uniforms in the desert (although actually they already wore khaki) and the famous British square formation was supposedly broken for the first time. Oddly, in this film the British lose the battle of Abu Klea while in reality they won.
  4. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    There is a fascinating article published in 1997 covering this, and very enlightening it is as well. The article was written by by Nicoletta F. Gullace and appeared in The Journal of British Studies, Volume 36, No.2 of April 1997, pages 178-206 entitled 'White Feathers and Wounded Men: Female Patriotism and the Memory of the Great War'

  5. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    The practice of "awarding" the white feather just got out of hand .... I thought that's what the SWB was for though originally Andy .... so that men who came home after 4 years of war could wear it on civilian clothing so that they wouldn't be accused of "shirking".

    Breaks my heart - to read about a British VC winner at Gallipoli - who was wounded at least 24 times and who was attending a celebration - in his honour - in his home town .... that even he was "awarded' a white feather because he was in civilian clothing.

    Annie :)
  6. Kitty

    Kitty New Member

    Oh that is plain ridiculous!
  7. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    Thought that I would place this article on the forum for peoples perusal. There is a lot of it so it will take a little while to place it here:-

    White Feathers and Wounded Men: Female Patriotism and the Memory of the Great War.

    On August 30, 1914, Admiral Charles Penrose Fitzgerald, an inveterate conscriptionist and disciple of Lord Roberts, deputized thirty women in Folkestone to hand out white feathers to men not in uniform. The purpose of this gesture was to shame "every young slacker' found loafing about the Leas" and to remind those "deaf or indifferent to their country's need" that "British soldiers are fighting and dying across the channel." Fitzgerald's estimation of the power of these women was enormous. He warned the men of Folkestone that "there is a danger awaiting them far more terrible than anything they can meet in battle," for if they were found "idling and loafing to-morrow" they would be publicly humiliated by a lady with a white feather.
    The idea of a paramilitary band of women known as "The Order of the White Feather" or "The White Feather Brigade" captured the imagination of numerous observers and even enjoyed a moment of semi-official sanction at the beginning of the war. According to the Chatham News an "amusing, novel, and forceful method of obtaining recruits for Lord Kitchener's Army was demonstrated at Deal on Tuesday" when the town crier paraded the street and "crying with the dignity of his ancient calling, gave forth the startling announcement: Oyez! Oyez!! Oyez!!! The White Feather Brigade! Ladies wanted to present the young men of Deal and Walmer.....The Order of the White Feather for shirking their duty in not coming forward to uphold the Union Jack of Old England! God save the King' " Numerous women responded to the cry and began to comb the city placing white feathers in the lapels and hat bands of men wearing civilian clothes. The practice was widley imitated by women all over the country and continued long after conscription was instated in 1916, creating one of the most persistent memories of the home front during the war. Dr. M. Yearsley is one of the many diarists who recalled that "young girls of all ages and styles of beauty, but particularly those of the type called 'Flappers,' were parading the streets offering white feathers to young men in mufti, with a fine disregard of discrimination......is an established fact," Yearsley insisted, that "one of these inconsequent children offered her emblem to a young man on leave who had just been awarded the V.C."
    Despite such vivid recollections, the white feather campaign has generally received only passing attention from historians of the war. Feminist scholars in Britain and America, influenced in the early eighties by the women's peace encampment at Greenham Common, have focused almost exclusively on the much celebrated history of feminist pacifism. Responding to the work of Arthur Marwick, David Mitchell, and others who recounted graphic tales of female war enthusiasm, the Greenham Common school tended to dismiss the white feather campaign as primarily misogynistic propaganda meant to discredit women and hide the more significant achievements of feminist pacifists. Although recent work in women's history has shifted attention away from the exclusive focus on pacifism, feminist scholarship has nevertheless failed to produce any detailed study of the very issue so painfully emphasized in the older histiography: that of women's participation in the recruiting campaign, particularly their wielding of the language of sexual shame to coerce young men into military service.
    The general exclusion of white feather giving from the feminist histiography, I would argue, is more the result of the shameful meaning this practice acquired after the war than of any absence of convincing sources testifying to its contemporary prevalence. Although Virginia Woolf may have been one of the first to suggest that the white feather campaign was more of a product of male hysteria than of actual female practice, she has by no means been the last, and the continued skepticism surrounding this practice necessitates some discussion of historical sources. The contemporary evidence consists primarily of local and national newspaper reports, literary sources (such as plays and stories), and admonitions to women decrying the practice and imploring ladies not to give out white feathers. By far the most abundant evidence, however, comes from postwar memoirs, dairies allegedly written during the war, but published after, and a collection or remarkable letters sent to the BBC by old soldiers forty-five years after the armistice, describing this painful experience to researchers compiling an anniversary special on the history of the Great War.
  8. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    Although postwar sources no doubt reflect the complicated mediation of time, what changed in the intervening years was not the description of white feather giving itself but the ominous frequency with which this practice came to be remembered and commented on by survivors of the war. My contention is that the practice occurred, mush as described in both contemporary and postwar accounts, but that its meaning, seriousness, and symbolic load were greatly enhanced as the war drew to a close and people began to count the dead. Though always more acceptable rhetorically than in actual practice, the wartime context of white feather giving endowed this feminine affront with enough patriotic, romantic, and civil legitimacy to entice some bold and impudent women to brave disapproval and bestow a white feather. As the larger cultural landscape encompassing the white feather campaign gradually receded, however, this practice itself came to be remembered as an emblematic act of feminine betrayal, easily disembodied from the social context in which it had originally thrived. This essay thus examines one of the most contentious gestures of the war in order to look at the way the language of patriotism implicated women in the raising of armies while subsequently providing the veterans with a concise rhetorical trope with which to remember gendered patriotism during the Great War.
  9. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    Women of Britain Say - GO!

    The white feather campaign originated within a system of voluntary recruiting that vociferously called on women to send their men to war. Until the institution of conscription in 1916, recruiting propaganda relied heavily on patriotic appeal that welded masculinity to military service and branded the unenlisted civilian as a coward beneath contempt.
    Women not only functioned in this campaign as the direct voice of conscience but appeared more subtly as the objects soldiers fought to defend, the rewards only heroes dared to desire, and as the specter of what a man might become were he to "show the white feather2 and fail in his duty. Gendered conceptions of patriotism thus implicated women in defining the parameters of male citizenship, while endowing women's traditional domestic, maternal, and sexual roles with an openly expressed importance to the military state. As John Oxenham reminded the women of the Women's League of Honour in a war poem composed for that group:

    O maids, and mothers of the race,
    And of the race that is to be
    To you is given in these dark days
    A vast responsibility..........
    Remember! - as you bear now,
    So Britain's future shall be great
    - Or small. To your true hearts is
    given a sovereign duty to the state.

    While Oxenham's poem, and much of the literature of the League of Honour, referred explicitly to the beneficial influence on men and the nations of women's physical purity, during the war "women's influence" took on a specifically military function as it became central to the language of recruiting.
    As early as August 1914 personal advertisements appearing in The Times accused unenlisted men of cowardice and effeminacy in the name of presumed female acquaintances. We have no idea whether these taunts were actually written by women, though contemporaries generally supposed they were, and even those advertisements that clearly were not - such as the productions of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee - nevertheless implicated women in a recruiting rhetoric that hinged on a masculanized sexual identity policed by women and the humiliating threat of appearing unmanly. "It will not be very long before very women in the country will be looking 'coward' at every man she sees at home," The Times forbodingly warned. For the writer "has talked with six women, varying in station from servant-maid to marchioness, all of whom have asked why so many young and active men are seen around who do not appear to be doing anything about going to war."
  10. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    Recruiters, legally barred from resorting to conscription until the enactment of National Service in 1916, put much thought into the motivation of young men, appealing both to threatened masculinity and to sexual desire as means of persaussion. In this way, Henry Arthur Jones was using commonplace logic when he declared that "the English girl who will not know the man - lover, brother, or friend - that cannot show an overwhelming reason for not taking up arms - that girl will do her duty and will give good help to her country."
    The incitement to such tactics was by no means unusual, especially during the first two years of the war. One recruiting leaflet addressed to "MOTHERS!" and "SWEATHEARTS!" reminded mothers of Belgain atrocities and warned sweethearts that, "If you cannot persuade him to answer his Country's Call and protect you now Discharge him as unfit!" A poster designed for the lord mayor of London put the same message even more bluntly. Addressing "The Young Women of London," the mayor asked: "Is your 'Best Boy' wearing khaki?......If not don't YOU THINK he should be? If he does not think that you and your country are worth fighting for - do you think he is worthy of you? Don't pity the girl who is alone - her young man is probably a soldier - fighting for her and her country - and for YOU. If your young man neglexts his duty to his King and Country, the time may come when he will neglect you. Think it over - then ask him to JOIN THE ARMY TODAY!"
    In this way, while "Womenof Britain" were told to "Say Go!" something as private as female sexuality took on a military significance at the expense of all those unenlisted men who appeared reluctant to defend its sanctity. While this poster and others like it were criticized in Parliament and in the feminist press for their blatant manipulation of gender, the state had nevertheless assumed the guise of a woman fro the purpose of recruiting.
    This propagandistic turn implicated women's most domestic and sexual relationships in the raising of the new armies. According to The Times: "Many correspondents point out that lectures are not the best means of reaching the workingman and that all important recruiting agency, his sister or sweetheart." Instead one such correspondent suggesting in a metaphor that melded women and recruiting posters: "Show their eyes." In this way propaganda, both in the deployment of gendered images and in its ability to instigate female behaviour, turned women themselves into a form of propaganda. Ideal-typical notions of masculinity and feminity were key to this process since they represented both the traditional values that the British were apparently fighting to defend the modes of gendered behaviour that seemed necessary to wage war successfully. What came as more of a shock to many observers, however, was that many women, donned the aspect of the atate as they used their own physical and rhetorical power in the service of the crown.
  11. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    Although propagandists like Admiral Fitzgerald, Lord Esher, and Arthur Conan Doyle urged women to shun men out of uniform, to show contempt for the unenlisted, and even to hand out white feathers to me wearing mufti, the authorities showed almost universal horror when women actually practiced what many publicists themselves had preached.
    In the same lecture in which he exhorted the girls of the Women's League of Honour to send their men to war, Major Leonard Darwin made clear that he was "very far from admiring those women who go up to young men in the street.....and abuse them for not enlisting, a proceeding which requires no courage on the woman's part, but merely a complete absence of modesty." And the recruiting sergeant Coulson Kernahan, ordinarily a vigorous advocate of female recruiting, warned women that "the sending or offering of whaite feathers, so far from witnessing to your patriotism, witnesses only to the fact that you are unpardonably ignorant, vulgar, and impertinent. The woman who offers a man a white feather exposes herself, and not undesrvedly, to rudeness and to insult. If she do worse than offer the feather personally and send it anonymously by post, she thereby classes herself.........as what in the other sex would be called a 'cad.' "
    Clearly a rhetorical taunt and the threat of an emblem like the white feather were ideally meant to obviate the need of actually handing one out; indeed, that women heeded these calls was not necessarily the intention of those propagandists who made the double edged appeals to such unlikely groups as "The Young Women of London" For Kernahan, actual demonstrations of the type of female behaviour advocated in much propaganda appeared "unnatural" and mortifying when endorsed or perfomed by women themselves. "One meets, of course, a number of women who lie and lie shamelessly in begging off a son or brother who has already enlisted," Kernahan thus observed. "For these women and their racking anxiety one is sufficiently sorry to find it easy to forgive, but the woman I cannot forgive is the one who would turn even her country's emergency into an opportunity to vent her vengeance or her spite either upon another woman, of whom she is jealous, or upon some man, who has perhaps shown himself indifferent to her charms. These are the women who remind one of Francis Willard's saying that 'the worst of some women is that they can never be gentlemen.' "
    Although Kernahan was able to forgive those women who attempted to shield their men, he could not forgive those whose recruiting activities he suspected of being undertaken for ulterior and self-serving ends. His distinction between women with "racking anxiety" for the safety of their men and those who used the country's emergency to wreak revenge on men "indifferent" to their "charms" reveals a deep suspicion about female patriotism.
  12. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    The discrepancy between the behaviour of women apparently necessitated by the war and a sense of womanliness that transcended necessity propelled contradictory observations on women's role in recruiting and placed white feather giving outside the boundaries of accetability, as a sort of emblem of all that was wrong with female patriotism. The Times correspondent Michael MacDonagh was thus horrified when going home in a tramcar one night he witnessed the presentation of white feathers. "The victims were two young men who were rudely disturbed from their reading of the evening paper by the attack of three young women.......'Why don't you fellows enlist? Your King and Country want you. We don't.' One of the girls was a pretty wench. She dishonoured one of the young men, as she thought, by sticking a white feather in his buttonhole, and a look of contempt spoiled for a moment her lovely face."
    Although MacDonagh worked for a journal complicitous in prompting women to acts of patriotic disdain, he was nevertheless deeply troubled as he witnessed a practice entirely in keeping with the sentiments endorsed by such respected authorities as the lord mayor of London As they parodoied the rhetoric of propaganda posters, the actions of these young woemn turned a ubiquitous call to arms into a monstrous distortion of femininity. Spoiling her pretty face with a look of contempt, the girl became emblematic of an act that marred that which should be lovely as it perverted the sentiments of both courtship and war.
    MacDonagh's reservations were shared by a wide variety of observers, particularly when the victim was already enlisted. J.P. Cope remembered the fury of his wife when a similar incident took place while he took her to tea at the Mikado Cafe on Long Row. Mrs. Cope had been disinfecting her husband's uniform and thus he was wearing civilian clothes when "3 young ladies passed me and placed 3 white feathers in my hand." According to Mrs. Cope, "I said to her look what them girls gave me as I did not know what they were for." His wife then accosted them and "they told her I ought to be in khaki out in France and she told them they ought to be in a Munitions Factory making Ammunition for the Soldiers to defend themselves."
    Ordering the girls to return to Long Row the next day, Mrs. Cope turned their misguided accusations into an embarrassing retort:

    The next day we went down I had my khaki on then with all my decorations....we met them.....and stopped them and told them to give me the feathers back but they were too ashamed to do so so we left them and went in the cafe and sat down, they followed us and told my wife they would pay for our teas, my wife told them that my husband would pay for us as it would be an insult to take there money as they little knew what I had gone through in the first year of war, always wet through from frost, snow, rain, wounded at Neuve Chapelle and how many battles I had been in being wounded twice and gassed twice.

    Mrs. Cope's display of her husband in full regimental attire and her challenge to the women to give back the white feathers became the means by which she cast aspersions on the wielders of shame. Like women who refused to take seats offered by men out of uniform, Mrs. Cope spurned the offer of tea from the insightless women who "little knew" what her husband "had gone through in the first year of the war."
  13. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I get so mad when I read about these women ... not even women some of them ... young girls !! :mad:

    I could just hug Mrs Cope !! :)
  14. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    Given the disapproval of observers ranging from Coulson Kernahan to Mrs. Cope, why did women persist in giving out white feathers, and what did it mean in the context of the war? To decipher the significance of white feather giving for those who literally or rhetorically wielded this remarkable taunt, we must turn to the romantic popular culture offered to patriotic men and women seeking entertainment on the home fornt

    Sexual Selection and Imperial Order

    The inspiration for the use of the white feather, and its significance in the construction of masculine honour and feminine disdain, were borrowed from The Four Feathers, a popular imperial adventure by A.E.W. Mason first published in 1902. The white feather of coawrdice referred to the white feather in a game bird's tail widely regarded as a mark of inferior breeding. In popular parlance to "mount" or "show" the white feather was to display signs of cowardice, since a properly bred fighting cock would demonstrate the aggression and tenacity valued in the ring. The symbol of the white feather thus bound together issues of sexual selesction, bravery, and cowardice - a confluence highlighted in the novel, which had gone into four editions by 1918.
    In the novel Harry Feversham, a young military officer who cannot stand the thought of battle, resigns his commission on learning that he is to be sent to the Sudan on active duty. Suspecting the cowardly motives behind his resignation, three of Harry's comrades send him white feathers forcing him to confront the devastating truth of his own martial inadequancy. The emotional climax of the novel comes when Harry must offer an explanation of the incident to his fiancee Ethne. As the narrator dramatically explains, "The dreadful thing for so many years dreadfully anticipated had at last befallen him. He was known for a coward........It was the girl that denied, as she still kneeled on the floor. 'I do not believe that it is true,' she said. 'You could not look me in the face so steadily were it true.......Three little white feathers,' she said slowly and with a sob in her throat, 'three little white feathers and the world's at an end.' "
    After returning her engagement ring, Ethne breaks a white ostrich feather from her ornamental fan and returns it to Feversham along with the three origianl feathers. As the narrator eaplains: "The thing which she has done was cruel no doubt, but she wished to put an end - a complete, irrevocable end;.......She was tortured with humiliation and pain......Their lips had touched.......she recalled with horror."
    This final act of humiliation at the hands of the woman he loves spurs Harry to redeem himself - a redemption possible only in the spilling of blood. On leaving Ethne, Harry embarks on a trek to the Sudan to save his former friends from rebellious Dervishes who have refused to submit to colonial rule. In Africa, his symbolic passage to manhood occurs when Harry sinks his untried dagger into the body of an Arab, infusing his sanguinary quest for personal courage with visceral phallic imagery. "A brown clotted rust dulled the whole length of the blade, and often....... he had taken the knife from his breast and stared at it with incredulous eyes and clutched it close to him like a thing of comfort.
    ......He ran his fingers over the rough rust upon the blade, and the weapon spoke to him and bade him take heart." As Harry caresses the dried blood of his victim - a testimony and proof of manhood encrusted on the very blade of his knife - the novel's juxtaposition of sex and empire begins to emerge, vividly highlighting a number of cultural assumptions that underlay the bestowal of the white feather of cowardice.
  15. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    In the novel imperialism and sexuality are intimately related since since the masculine traits needed to satisfy the woman are the same as those required in the conquest of empire. After rescuing his comrades from the clutches of Dervishes, proving his willingness to kill and his indifference to danger and death, Harry's redemption is complete and he is able to return the feathers and reclaim his bride. On Harry's heroic return, Ethne treasures his redeemed white feather "because it was no longer a symbol of cowardice but a symbol of cowardice atoned." The mock order of the white feather becomes instead the true badge of courage, as Harry's atonement allows for his rehabilitation of his name and his reintegration into the society of his friends, his family, and the woman he loves.
    As both the symbol of Harry's humiliation and the instrument of his redemption, the white feather endows womanly scorn with rich creative possibilities. For wartime enthusiasts, the objective of giving a white feather was thus not only to shame a man but to change him as well, and as numerous men later testified, it could be wielded with a certain amount of patriotic self-righteousness by those would be Ethnes who regarded a slacker as an affront to the ideal of manhood itself. A.M. Woodward perfectly summed up this attitude when she wrote to The Times to remind women that "there is a wider duty than making garments.......Young men must be persuaded to think what this war really means......So I am commencing a little missionary work. To-morrow I mean to give a leaflet to every man who is apparently a possible recruit. I shall watch for them on the tram, in the street, at cricket and tennis grounds, at the theatre, at the restaurant; and I hope that the little single appeal 'from the women of England' will at least rouse their thought and will possibly help them to act."
    While leaflets, rather than feathers, were Woodward's symbolic medium, her faith in the creative power of womanly censure is abundantly clear. If Woodward compared herself to a missionary, however, such inversion of "khaki fever," scorning a coward can be read as the other side of loving a hero - a potentially transformative demonstration of that female patriotism so seductively displayed by Mason's heroine.
    Indeed, the imperial/sexual assumptions evident in The Four Feathers pervaded both the language of patriotic femininity and the ideal of romantic love during the war. If courage was the key to both sexual selection and the conquest of empire, every woman's imperial/eugenic task was to love a soldier and scorn a coward. As the Girl's Own Paper solemnly explained, "Women will forgive almost anything in a man except cowardice and treason." For "not only is this feeling instinctive, but it comes to her through long years of human evolution........With hearts full but tranquil souls, women can send forth their sons, their husbands, their sweethearts, their protectors, to danger or death - to anything saving halting and dishonour. A great Admiral put ti neatly when he said 'victory was won by the woman behind the man behind the gun.' "
    In the suggestion that both women and war demanded the same qualities out of a man, female sexuality became central to contemporary understanding of the forging or martial identity. "The soul's armour is never well set to the heart unless a woman's hand has braced it," the Mother's Union warned, "and it is only when she braces it loosely that the honour of manhood fails."
  16. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    During the war, female journalists, music hall entertainers, and an array of patriotic publicists of both sexes popularized these sentiments by ariculating women's military purpose in terms of their sexual and moral power over men. Indeed, if the act of bestowing a white feather required no words to be understood, it may have been because contemporary discourse about women's influence gave unmistakable meaning to a gesture that invested feminine discrimination with explicit militray utility.
    When the Baroness Orczy, author of the Scarlet Pimpernel, called for the "first hundred thousand" female recruiters to join her "Active Service League" in 1914, she made explicit the logic latent in such patriotic acts of feminine disdain. "Women and Girls of England - Your time has come!" the Baroness declared. "The great hour when to the question ....'what can I do?' your country has at last given an answer: 'Women and Girls of England' she says, 'I want your men, your sweethearts, your brothers, your sons, your friends.......Will you use your influence that they should respond one and all?'......Women and girls of England, you cannot shoulder a rifle, but you can actually serve her in the way she needs most. Give her the men whom she wants.....use all the influence you posses to urge him to serve his country."
    The Baroness posed the influencing of men as literally a form of 'active service' for women and offered a military style badge and a place on the League's "Roll of Honour" to any woman or girl who pledged to 'persuade every man I know to offer his service.....and never to be seen in public with any man who being in every way fit and free.....has refused to respond to his country's call." The Baroness succeeded in enrolling 20,000 women and for her efforts received a letter of commendation from the King. Yet Orczy was merely one of a multitude of commentators and patriots who bade women to persuade their men to enlist and to scorn those who refused.
    To Orczy, the withdrawing of the feminine body - in the refusal to be seen in public with a man out of uniform - worked in cinjunction with moral coercion to isolate the man who refused to enlist. Her assumption seems to have been that what persuassion and female patriotism could not achieve, sexual desire and oublic shame could. If the presence of women were contingent on the wearing of a uniform, the purpose of the League was to assure that the signs of military and sexual prowess would be worn together or not at all.
  17. John

    John Active Member

    Annie and Andy

    Thank you for an informative posts re the White Feather. It looks like they were handed out willy nilly and I wonder how many men committed suicide after being given a feather.
    Did this practice continue into the 2nd WW

  18. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I don't know what the situation was in WW2 John ! maybe somebody will tell us .... :)

    but in WW1 those on home leave from the Army had their khaki to wear - those who had attested as willing to serve were given an arm band - which could avoid the attention of white-feather ladies. The merchant navy wore civvies with a lapel badge I believe - but many others in reserved occupations had no way of standing out.
    Apparently there is correspondence in the Archives from various groups of civil servants who wanted but never received any official marking.

    In both world wars - the Australian Government found it necessary to award badges to men who had enlisted and been rejected because of medical problems - age - absence of required physical guidelines (height, weight, chest size etc) - vital war related work in Australia (munitions workers etc) or necessary Government service or "Reserved Occupations".

    Annie :)
  19. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    As patriotic women's groups posed the raising of recruits as a form of military service for women - a patriotic duty comparable, according to the Baroness Orczy, to "shouldering a rifle" - popular singers, writers, and artists represented the soldier hero as a romantic ideal worthy of a woman's love and hopefully her body. Highlighting the distinction between the sexually attractive recruit and the contemptible slacker, female music stars such as Vesta Tilly and Clara Butt became famous for their sexualized recruiting songs and thier erotic impact on enlistment. At venues ranging from local music halls to the carnivalesque recruiting rallies of Horatio Bottomley, the alleged contingencyof love on war dominated the period of voluntary recruiting, turning military service into a sort of national aphrodisiac. In the most famous recruiting song of the war, women explained that, "Now your country calls you to play your part in the war / and no matter what befalls you we shall love you all the more......Oh, we don't want to lose you / but we think you ought to go,......./ We shall want you and miss you / But with all our might and main / We shall cheer you, thank you, kiss you / when you come back again."
    In the song, women offer their love and kisses as mens' reward for going to war, yet in many music hall songs the sexual implications of soldiering were even more explicit. In "I'll Make a Man of You," popularized by Gwendoline Brogden in "The Passing Show," the artisite enthusiastically proclaimed to the audience her "perfect dream of a recruiting scheme": "If only all the girls would do as I do / I believe that we could manage it alone / For I turn all suitors from me but the sailor and the Tommy / I've an army of my own......On Saturday I'm willing, if you'll only take a shilling / To make a man out of you....../ I teach the tendefoot to face the powder That gives an extra lustre to my skin......./ It makes me almost proud to be a woman, when you make a strapping soldier of a kid. / And he says 'You put me through it and I didn't want to do it / But you went and made me love you so I did.' "
    The use of double entendres - in this instance comparing making a man face gunpowder to a woman applying face powder - played with the idea of the eroticism of war and its stimulating effect on female sexuality. In making a soldier the woman makes a man and in making a manshe conversely creates a soldier; this transformative power in itself becomes a source of erotic pleasure as the singer flaunts her ability to counter a man's volition by stimulating his desire. As the song's reluctant recruit puts it: "You put me through it and I didn't want to do it / But you went and made me love you so I did.' "
    Female entertainers themselves frequently tried to recruit men from the audience in the highly patriotic atmosphere of the music hall. Major D.K. Patterson, and "Old Contemptible" home on leave in 1915, went to the Royal Hippodrome in Belfast where a comedienne sang "We don't want to lose you" directly to him. The mirth of the company suprised the vocalist who, much to Major Patterson's satisfaction, burst into tears on being told that he was already in the army.
  20. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    The longing to transfom men into soldiers and the virtual identification of erotic masculinity and martial prowess was as evident in popular women's fiction as in bawdy music hall lyrics. In September 1914, for example, Women's World began a serial called "A Soldier's Wife" which ran with the sensational advertisement: "Amy Had Married the Only Coward in France." Through a mistake, Amy believes that she was saved from a fire by Jules and marries him instead of the true hero Jack. After marrying Jules, Amy discovers her mistake. To the humiliation of Amy and Jule's mother, "a gallant old lady who loved her son to the point of adoration [but] loved her country and her son's honour better," Jules tries to desert even before joining the French Army. The concerted effort of the two women, however, finally gets Jules to the front where he shows his bravery and saves his marriage in the single act of performing well as a soldier.
    Similar motifs appeared in popular women's literature even after the conscription in 1916. In August 1917, for eaxmple, Women at Home magazine published a romatic story by M. McD. Bodkin, K.C., called "The White Feather." In the story, Molly Burton, "a bright, pretty, warmhearted girl gives a white feather to a recipient of the Victoria Cross. Molly is intensely drawn to posters "urging young men to join their comrades in the trenches, to fight for England and liberty against the ravishers and murderers in Flanders. Shirkers and slackers awakened her utmost scorn. ........If I was a man' she said, 'I would go at first call. I would not have other men out fighting for me while I skulked at home amongst the women., "
    Molly is troubled by the presence in the neighbourhood of "a splendid figure of a man" who was not at the front. Molly could not bear the sight of "the handsome young lounger" for "here was indeed a slacker in excelcis for whom no excuse was possible to lionger ingloriously at home while his compeers were facing the horror of war." Molly's contempt grows daily as she sees the handsome coward. "lazing round Brighton, while England, through the medium of many coloured and illustrated posters, proclaimed that every man was needed at the Front." Finally, able to stand it no longer she gives him a white feather snipped from her favourite hat.
    The culmination of the story and the fruition of its sexual/military motif, comes when Molly is invited to a grand ball "for a military angel.......Robert Courtney, most illustrious of Victoria Cross heroes who has been resding anonymously at Brighton for nearly a fortnight." Predictably, "the hero of the Victoria Cross was her slacker, still wearing the white feather." The revelation of his bravery solves the puzzle of how Molly could have found herself "in danger of loving this self confessed slacker" and culminates in the conflation of romatic and matrial masculinity in the person of the hero. As the narrator explains, Captain Coutney "waltzed as he fought, superbly." In the final passage of the story he "caught her close in his arms, half resisting, wholly yielding, and kissed her on the lips. When she emerged panting and blushing from the close embrace without a word more spoken on either side, they were engaged." As the narrator reminds us, "Captain Courtney was no slacker in love or war!"

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