Women in the British Army: War and the Gentle Sex, 1907-1948

TitleWomen in the British Army: War and the Gentle Sex, 1907-1948
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsNoakes, Lucy
Number of Pages209
CityLondon; New York

From Boadicea to Joan of Arc, through wars of occupation and resistance, to civil wars and world wars, women have been active participants in warfare at many different points in history and in many different situations. However, women's presence in the forces has consistently been viewed as problematic. In this study, Noakes examines women's role in the army, and female military organisations, during the First and Second World Wars, as well as during peacetime and the interwar and postwar periods. Providing a unique examination of women's struggle for acceptance by the British army, Noakes argues that women in uniform during the first half of the twentieth century challenged traditional notions of gender and threatened to destabilise clear-cut notions of identity by unsettling the masculine territory of warfare. Noakes also examines the tensions that arose as the army attempted to reconcile its need for female labour with the desire to ensure that the military remained a male preserve. Drawing on a range of archival sources, including previously unpublished letters and diaries, official documents, newspapers and magazines, Women in the British Army uncovers the gendered discourses of the army to reveal that it was a key site in the formation of male and female identities.

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