Not One, But Two Years of WWrite in Review! January 2017 - January 2019.
Part 4: Women Writing WWI
Over 22,000 American women served as nurses during WWI. The Navy and Marines accepted 13,000 women into active duty. Thousands have written about their experience, which has inspired contemporary women scholars and writers to explore the war through research and art. This is the 4th installment of the series, “WWrite Blog: Two Years in Review of WWI and Writing,” that will document and synthesize the 100+ blog contributions from January 2017. This week features posts about women's incredible involvement in WWI as fighters and writers.
The first section, "Women in WWI: Nurses, Fighters, Writers," lists posts about women who served in WWI or lived during the WWI period. The second section, "Women's Art, Scholarship, and Writing about WWI," lists posts by women who have devoted their scholarship, writing, or art to WWI.
1.Women in WWI: Nurses, Fighters, Writers
Margaret Thomas Buchholz “Josephine: Government Girl, 1918”
This WWrite blog features writing by Josephine Lehman Thomas, a “government girl” in Washington DC during World War I: a determinedly modern young woman who relished the wartime excitement of the nation's capital – with its soldiers, movie stars, and international celebrities. She kept a detailed diary from 1917 until the late twenties, when she was a researcher and ghostwriter for Lowell Thomas. A lively record of city life at during WWI in the US provided by Thomas' daughter, Margaret Thomas Buchholz!
Several years ago, a French boy found an engraved bracelet in the French village of Rimaucourt, in the Haute-Marne region. It belonged to Josephine Heffernan, an American woman who had served as a nurse during WWI. But no one could find a trace of her life or her death. A Rimaucourt woman contacted French journalist and director, Hélène Lam Trong, and asked her to investigate. This was the beginning of Lam Trong's film, JosephineH., which follows Rimaucourt residents and American nurses on their long journey to uncover the bracelet owner's identity. The documentary will air on major French television. From a French-Vietnamese perspective, Lam Trong shares her thoughts on WWI, Vietnam, and engaging with American history.
WWICC featured Werbe for her 2014 TheGreat War Theatre Project: Messengers of a Bitter Truth, a multi-media theatre piece. It has evolved now to include music as a way of introducing women’s writings. Werbe talks about her latest piece, Letters that you Will Not Get: Women’s Voices from The GreatWar, a song cycle based on women’s writings from both sides of the conflict and set to contemporary music. Read this moving post about the premiere performance in New York.
Jennifer Orth-Veillon “2 Nurses Writing From No Man’s Land: Mary Borden’s Forbidden Zone and Ellen Lamotte’s Backwash of War”
This WWrite post features 2 WWI censored written works. Jennifer Orth-Veillon, the WWrite blog curator, discussed two extraordinary books by Army nurses: Ellen N. Lamotte's The Backwash of War and Mary Borden's The Forbidden Zone.
“When the great war broke out,” Vera Brittain writes in her memoir, Testament of Youth, “it came to me not as a superlative tragedy but as an interruption of the most exasperating kind to my personal plans.” This WWrite blog post takes a look at Brittain's disembarkment from post-Victorian ladyhood to WWI field nurse, where she discovers not only the horrors of war tragedy but also the power of feminism.
WWrite Blog Curator, Jennifer Orth-Veillon Ph.D., offers her post entitled "On A Boat Alone," as she talks about her own writing and discusses the "Gold Star Pilgrimage," a U.S.-government sponsored program that brought wives to burial sites and battlegrounds in Europe post-WWI. She focuses on the African American women who took these trips and discovered equality, not in their own country, but on the other side of the ocean.
"The Colored Man is No Slacker." In 1919, this slogan on a WWI-era poster inspired two young African American sisters from West Virginia to write and publish a book of poems whose sole intention, they wrote, was "to show the Negro’s loyalty to the stars and stripes in the war with Germany and to show the need of unity of all men in the fight for democracy."
Are war wives war poets, too? Can we consider those women who write about the contortions on domestic life and feminine sensibility wrought by war as veteran writers? Author, veteran, and teacher, Peter Molin, explores the question in a post about poet Aline Murray Kilmer, wife of well-known American WWI poet, Joyce Kilmer, who was killed during the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918. Throughout Joyce's deployment and then after his death, the words of Aline's poetry, in ambiguous ways, convey the urgency and nuance of a war wife's uncertainty as she finds her tranquility and self-worth vexingly dependent on her husband, even in his permanent absence.
MAJ Jasmine Motupalli Walker “Historically-Influenced Path: Iraq and Afghanistan Through Ida B. Wells’ Fight”
Black History Month gave the WWrite blog the opportunity to showcase African American writers and artists inspired by WWI. Major Jasmine Motupalli, Assistant Professor of Engineering at West Point, and Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran, reflected upon the roles of African American women during WWI, especially the actions of journalist, activist, and suffragist, Ida B. Wells. Major Motupalli also shared part of her memoir in progress about her experience in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer.
Tracy Crow “U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Tracy Crow Writes About Female Marine Sergeant Lela Leibrand (Ginger Rogers’ Mother!)”
This post features U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Writer, Tracy Crow, author of the critically-acclaimed memoir, Eyes Right: Confessions from a Woman Marine, as well as the breakthrough books On Point: A Guide to Writing the Military Story, the anthology, Red, White, and True: Stories from Veterans and Families, WWII to Present, and Cooper’s Hawk: The Remembering. In July 2017, she, along with co-editor Jerri Bell, will released the anthology, It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. Crow discusses WWI Female Marine Sergeant Lela Leibrand, one of the first 10 women to join the Marine Corps. Leibrand was also mother to star Ginger Rogers.
Jerri Bell “WWI Navy Yeoman (F), First Class Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Writing Advice, Writing Life”
Navy veteran and writer, Jerri Bell, discusses the dynamic career of female WWI veteran, Marjory Stone Douglas. Bell, co-editor of the anthology, It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan introduces the undiscovered richness of Douglas' long life (she died at 108!) as a prolific writer, Naval servicewoman in WWI, and political and environmental activist. A great story.
Kayla Williams “Equal Pay, Equal Benefits: Loretta Perfectus Walsh, the First Enlisted Woman in the U.S. Military”
When Kayla Williams, veteran of the Iraq War and author of Love My Rifle More Than You, enlisted in the Army in 2000, her pay was identical to that of all other service members with my same rank and time in service. It did not occur to her at the time that this not only put the military in stark contrast to many other career fields but was also the result of trailblazing women who paved the way for the rest of women. Loretta Perfectus Walsh, a chief Yeoman in WWI, was the first. Not the first woman to fight on behalf of America – that honor dates all the way back to the Revolutionary War – but the first to officially enlist, as a woman, earning equal pay and benefits. Earlier, women served either alongside their husbands or disguised as men (in an era of... more relaxed entrance examinations!). Later, they could serve in one of the Nurse Corps – but without equal pay, benefits, and rank.
2. Women's Art, Scholarship, and Writing about WWI
Patricia Hammond “Soon, All Too Soon: British Musicians Bring Life and Melody to Exhumed Body of WWI German Soldier Ernst Brockman”
When British musicians Patricia Hammond and Matt Redman found and performed German sheet music written by a soldier killed in Verdun, they had no idea the song, "Soon, Too Soon," would also lead to the discovery of the composer's body, which had been buried in an unmarked grave in France's Meuse-Argonne region. Read about the captivating hunt for a man behind a melody.
Connie Ruzich “Raindrops on Your Old Tin Hat: Lt. John Hunter Wickersham – a Lost Voice, a Faded Poem”
This post brings a writer who has made it her life project to retrieve the lost poems of WWI. Connie Ruzich, a Fulbright Scholar and author of the extensive, impressive WWI poetry site, Behind Their Lines (http://behindtheirlines.blogspot.fr/) presents the only WWI soldier who was both a poet and a Congressional Medal of Honor Winner: Lt. John Hunter Wickersham
“A monster... of war and not of war..." is how James Seamon Cotter Jr. describes the genocide and racism that make up an important part of WWI's history and memory in his poem "O, Little David, Play on Your Harp": the Armenian Genocide, Russian pogroms, the Belgian atrocities, the deadly prejudice against African Americans. WWI poetry specialist, Connie Ruzich discusses Cotter, a forerunner of the African American cultural renaissance of the 1920s, and his vision of the world during the Great War.
In a Lonely Forest: Josef Rust Found Connie Ruzich Uncovers Lyricist for Ernst Brockman's "Soon, All Too Soon"
WWICC and WWrite have shared Patricia Hammond’s story of the haunting WWI song, "Soon, all too soon," by Ernst Brockman and the search that led to the identification of the forgotten composer’s body. But what of the song’s lyricist, Josef Rust? In this week's post,"In a Lonely Forest,' amateur detective and WWI poetry expert, Connie Ruzich, talks about her quest to find Rust, a journey that led her to uncover another great WWI writer.
In August 1918, the tide started to turn towards the end ofWWI and so did the subject of WWI poetry. While American Sgt. Frank Carbaugh didn't live to see theArmistice, he immortalized his vision of democracy and peace in his poem "The Fields of the Marne," written while he was in the hospital and published in The Stars and Stripes close to his death. This week, WWI poetry expert, Connie Ruzich, returns to WWrite to tell us the story of this brave soldier and unknown poet.
During the last two years of the WWI Centennial, Connie Ruzich and her blog, Behind Their Lines, which shares lesser-known poetry of the First World War, have generously teamed up with WWrite with timely posts. Ruzich excels at drawing the past and present together by linking current events with pivotal moments from 1914-1918. Her archival work into the lost poetic voices of WWI has served as an incredible resource, providing discussion and research on international lost voices, poems written by those on the home front, and poetry that has been neglected in modern anthologies.
In 2020, Ruzich will go from digital to print as she publishes her anthology, International Poetry of World War I: An Anthology of Lost Voices, with Bloomsbury Academic Press. This week, we have come together once more and WWrite has the pleasure of featuring her important post on a VAD nurse on duty in France, who writes of Christmas, 1918," the "Peace Christmas." Read this powerful post that discusses the soldiers remaining on overseas duty and the devastated countryside "feeling for her frozen heart."