Women in the British Army
War and the Gentle Sex, 1907–1948
By Lucy Noakes
Routledge – 2006 – 224 pages
Series: Women's and Gender History
In this fascinating, timely and engaging study, Lucy Noakes examines women's role in the army and female military organizations during the First and Second World Wars, during peacetime, in the interwar era and in the post-war period.
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 their 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Drawing on a range of archival sources, including previously unpublished letters and diaries, official documents, newspapers and magazines, Women in the British Army uncovers the gendered discourses of the army to reveal that it was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.
‘Noakes’s book offers a good introductionto the history of women in the British army and provides a useful overview for students wishing to familiarize themselves with the array of military tasks British women undertook during the first half of the twentieth century. If male resistance to women’s desire for combat roles comes as no surprise, Noakes nevertheless reminds us that an overly optimistic assessment of women’s increasing presence in the military threatens to camouflage the persistent resistance of military authorities to full equality for female soldiers.’ – Journal of Contemporary History
Acknowledgements. Preface 1. Introduction: Gendering War 2. Early Days: Women and the Armed Forces Before 1914 3. ‘The Women Were Marvellous': The First World War and the Female Volunteer 4. ‘Eve in Khaki’: The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps 5. Between the Wars: Women’s Military Organisations 1919–1938 6. ‘The Gentle Sex’: The ATS in the Second World War 7. ‘Gentle in Manner, Resolute in Deed': Women In the Post-War Army. Conclusion. Bibliography
Lucy Noakes is Senior Lecturer in the School of Creative Arts, Film and Media at the University of Portsmouth. She is author of War and the British: Gender and National Identity, 1939-1991 (1998).