Women, Children, and the Collective Face of Conflict in Europe, 1900-1950

Nupur Chaudhuri, Sandra Trudgen Dawson (Eds.)

by Mary Laurents (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Laurie S. Stoff (Arizona State University), Andrew Orr (Kansas State University), Allison Scardino Belzer (Georgia Southern University), Michelle Tusan (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), Sandra Trudgen Dawson (Berkshire Conference of Women Historians), Patrick José Dawson (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Gina Benavidez (University of New Mexico), Mark J. Crowley (University of Utah), Suzanne Dunai (Southwestern Oklahoma State University), Kenneth Mouré (University of Alberta), Marianne Junila (University of Oulu, Finlandia), Tiina Kinnunen (University of Oulu, Finland)

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This volume by Nupur Chaudhuri and Sandra Dawson expands our understanding of an era of jarring cultural transformation and political crises between c. 1900 and 1950 by placing renewed focus on the historical agency and diverse experiences of women and children into a broader, and in places, global context. In moving beyond standard conceptual paradigms of civilian or victim, combatant or non-combatant, home front vs. battlefield, the contributors underscore the historical agency of their subjects through spiritedly written, carefully researched studies informed by the latest scholarship on such topics as wartime propaganda, wartime childhood experiences, the construction of historical memory, antifascist movements, and the role of women in international humanitarian organizations and philanthropy by placing them into dialog with politicized representations of women and children in wartime propaganda, education, and policy. Instructively, moreover, this volume’s analyses comparatively span an unconventionally broad periodization that encompasses the unique focus on both women and children as historical agents, spanning an equally singular period that encompasses the Armenian genocide, Russian Revolution, First World War, Spanish Civil War, and the fascist turn of the 1930s culminating in the Second World War skillfully advances our understanding of how the still understudied actions and experiences of women and children throughout the globe across multiple spaces of conflict and transformation. Chaudhuri and Dawson have commendably assembled an important ensemble of scholarly studies that each have much to teach experienced scholars and students alike about the complicated entanglement of the personal and the political.

Dr. Jeffrey D. Burson
Professor of History
Georgia Southern University

With verve and precision, Chaudhuri and Dawson have curated a collection that shows how the personal became political when the political impacted the personal. These superb essays take us to the home front and battlefields of war as women and children struggled for individual and social identities during crucial years of European conflict.

Eileen Boris
Hull Professor and Distinguished Professor
Department of Feminist Studies
Distinguished Professor of History, Black Studies, and Global Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
Author of “Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919-2019”

Europe was in turmoil during the first half of the twentieth century. The political stability that emanated from nineteenth-century political liberalism began to break down, reaching climaxes in the Great War, the Spanish Civil War, and the Second World War. Revolutions in Russia and Spain threatened parliamentary governments, and the Armenian genocide that began in 1915 foreshadowed the systematic destruction of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. Dictators seized power and established authoritarian regimes that stymied democratic expression and censored the press.
Much of the scholarship on each of the conflicts has tended to focus on the military (male) and the civilian (female) binary. Women and children experienced every conflict during this tumultuous period as civilians, consumers, victims, exiles, and combatants. As histories of women and war suggest, there are exciting new areas of research and scholarship that resist simplistic binaries. Women were not simply civilians or victims. They were actors in the minutiae of wars, revolutions, dictatorships, and genocides. Children were present in these conflicts and not invisible, as many histories suggest. They too were actors and often politicized by propagandist literature and sectarian education through their own experiences and the politics of their families. This collection seeks to complicate the child/ adult distinction and examine the experiences of women and children as lenses to view a more collective face of conflict.
While the volume brings to attention conflicts in Europe, the editors acknowledge the global ramifications of the revolutions, wars, and genocides, as well as the multitude of individual experiences. This collection seeks to expand understanding of the personal as the political in European conflicts from 1900-1950. We believe the focus on women and children offers a diverse perspective on five tumultuous decades of European history.

List of Figures
Jean P. Smith

Nupur Chaudhuri
Texas Southern University
Sandra Trudgen Dawson
Berkshire Conference of Women Historians

Section One. War and Identity:
The Personal and the Collective

Chapter 1 ‘One of the Boys’: Identity, Crisis and Vera Brittain’s War
Mary Laurents
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Chapter 2 Saving Russia: Women’s Contributions to Russia’s First World War Effort
Laurie S. Stoff
Arizona State University

Chapter 3 Who is a Soldier? Rethinking French Women’s Military Identity during the Second World War
Andrew Orr
Kansas State University

Chapter 4 Children and the Character of Italy: Consuming Juvenile Literature in Wartime and Conflict
Allison Scardino Belzer
Georgia Southern University

Section Two. Humanitarian Aid
and International Solidarity

Chapter 5 The Armenian Genocide, Women Aid Workers, and World War I in the Middle East
Michelle Tusan
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Chapter 6 Guernica, Politics, and International Humanitarianism: Spanish Child Refugees in Britain and the Soviet Union
Sandra Trudgen Dawson
Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
Patrick José Dawson
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Chapter 7 One with the Wounded: American Nurses in the Spanish Civil War
Gina Benavidez
University of New Mexico

Chapter 8 Standing in Solidarity: British Women and the China Campaign Committee, 1937-1945 135
Mark J. Crowley
University of Utah

Section Three. Consumption and Conflict

Chapter 9 Indoctrinating Dinners: Feeding Ideology to the Hungry during the Franco Dictatorship in Spain, 1937-1948
Suzanne Dunai
Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Chapter 10 Women, Children, and “Slow Starvation” in Occupied France
Kenneth Mouré
University of Alberta

Chapter 11 Patriotism and Austerity: Finnish Children and Youth in World War Two
Marianne Junila and Tiina Kinnunen
University of Oulu


Nupur Chaudhuri is a Professor of History at Texas Southern University and teaches European and British history. She is the author of numerous articles and chapters on British and French history and is co-author, with Mary Elizabeth Perry and Sherry Katz, of the award-winning collection 'Finding Women in the Archives: Collection of Essays on Women from India, Iran, Spain, Poland, Mexico, Mozambique and the US' (University of Illinois, 2010) and co-editor with Eileen Boris of 'Voices of Women Historians: Personal, Professional, and Political' (University of Indiana, 1999); with Ruth Roach Pierson of 'Nation, Empire, Colony: Critical Categories of Gender and Race Analysis' (University of Indiana, 1998) and with Margaret Strobel of 'Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance' (University of Indiana, 1992).

Sandra Trudgen Dawson is the Executive Administrator of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians. She received a Ph.D. in History and Feminist Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2007. Her first book, 'Holiday Camps in twentieth-century Britain: Packaging Pleasure', was published by Manchester University Press in 2011 as part of their Popular Culture Series. Dawson co-edited, with Eileen Boris and Barbara Molony, 'Engendering Transnational Transgressions: The Intimate to the Global' (Routledge, 2020) and co-edited, with Erika Rappaport and Mark J. Crowley, 'Consuming Behaviours: Identity, Politics and Pleasure in twentieth-century Britain' (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015) and edited, with Mark J. Crowley, 'Home Fronts: Britain and the Empire at War, 1939-45' (Boydell, 2017). Her current project, 'Midwives and Mothers: Reproductive Labours in Interwar and Wartime Britain', will be published by Lexington Books.

conflict, war, fascism, consumption, humanitarianism, genocide, Bolshevik Revolution, Great War, World War Two, Spanish Civil War

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Women, Children, and the Collective Face of Conflict in Europe, 1900-1950





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm

Publication date

September 2023