Under The Cross—Why V.A.D.s Performed the Filthiest Task in the Dirtiest War: Red Cross Women Volunteers, 1914–1918

TitleUnder The Cross—Why V.A.D.s Performed the Filthiest Task in the Dirtiest War: Red Cross Women Volunteers, 1914–1918
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsDonner, Henriette
JournalJournal of Social History
Volume30
Issue3
Start Page687
Pagination687 - 704
Date Published03/1997
Abstract

The history of V.A.D.s sheds a new light on the question of women's subsumption into the general mobilisation for the Great War. It leads us to question the emancipating effect of the Great War. It shows that gains such as "women's suffrage" or "professional equity" have little to do with the kind of emancipation, rich in emotional yields, which V.A.D.s sought and found in wartime service. The British Red Cross Society operated within a mixed economy. As a modern voluntary organisation, it cooperated in the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers on the large scale. But the society's appeal for volunteers drew from a symbolic moral realm in which self-sacrifice was a significant element. Similarly, most V.A.D.s were young and imagined themselves as New Women. However, a moral predisposition to service allowed the V.A.D.s to accommodate routinized work into their own priorities. The work itself contained many affective elements. The erotic nature of caring for the wounded men, the liberating effect of being under a matriarchy, are just some of the aspects which allowed the V.A.D.s to reap positive compensations for their sacrifice. (Author)

URLhttp://jsh.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/3/687
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