Should women be confined to a few footnotes in war history?

Essay by hobaUniversity, Bachelor's June 2004

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'Adding women to the history of war merely adds a few minor footnotes to the main story of military endeavour; it does not tranform our fundamental understandings of war.' Disucss with reference to New Zealander's participation in the wars of the twentieth century.

Women's war history can not simply be dismissed with a few minor footnotes attached to the main story of military endeavour, as it fails to address a large proportion of wartime experience, the experience of women. Gender is invariably part of war. It is interwined with culture and, as known, war causes major disruption to everyday life, resulting in disruption to culture and gender. Gender is neglected because it deconstructs national identity, as it threatens masculine spheres and heroic myths, and provides alternative discourses. All of which threaten to transform fundamental understandings of war. Women's contribution to the war effort can not be neglected. Historians often dismiss women's contribution as futile or not worthy of a mention because it is non-combatant, but this is a narrow minded, masculinized approach that needs revision.

Women in New Zealand during World Wars One and Two, responded to the needs of war, and utilised their capabilities. Many immediately began fundraising to send parcels to soldiers, and to boost moral of "our boys". Others repsonded to the call for women to take over men's employment roles in industry to maintain clothing, footware and food production essential for the war effort. Women also moved into areas of hard labour to fill shortage, working in the horticulture sector and on farms to ensure their was enough supplies to support both New Zealand troops and the Allied forces. Whilst other women volunteered their nursing services and persisted until they were able to go to the front and nurse the men back to health. By looking...