Conference (UK) – Aftermaths of War: Women’s Movements and Female Activists, 1918-1923

Aftermaths of War: Women’s Movements and Female Activists, 1918-1923

An international conference

Hinsley Hall, Leeds, UK

10th-12th September 2008

The conference focuses on the activities, experience and cultural
representation of the organised women’s movement and of individual female
activists in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, c. 1918-1923.
The approach taken is broadly historical, but with contributors drawn from
a variety of fields, including literary and cultural studies, sociology
and social anthropology, women’s and gender studies, and history itself.
As far as the organisers are aware, this is the first conference to deal
specifically with responses of the women’s movement to the aftermath of
the First World War from a comparative, transnational and
interdisciplinary perspective.

The conference programme reflects the strong emphasis placed on central, eastern and south-eastern
Europe , areas less well represented in the current literature. Indeed,
while the First World War had a more obvious ending on the western front
– 11 November 1918 – in eastern Europe, depending on one’s perspective, it
either ended at the close of 1917, or actually continued through a variety
of new conflicts well into the post-war period (for instance the
Hungarian-Romanian War; the Russian Civil War; the Polish-Soviet War; the
Greek-Turkish War; and various anti-Semitic pogroms). This in turn raises
new questions about the role of the women’s movement and of individual
activists in rebuilding nations and contributing to international
reconciliation, or alternatively, in facilitating the rise of new forms of
ethno-nationalism and racial intolerance, in the period 1918 to 1923. The
focus on the central and eastern European experience will also provide
fresh ways of looking at the experience of the western European and
extra-European countries represented in the conference – Britain , Germany
, France , Italy , Australia and the US . A second key aspect of the
conference is its focus on cultural demobilisation, referring to the
‘dismantlement of the mindsets and values of wartime’ (John Horne). This
has become a major theme in First World War studies, and has been
addressed more broadly at international conferences over the past five
years. However, to date the contribution of the women’s movement and
individual women activists has been somewhat marginalised or overlooked.
Cultural demobilisation as a concept enables us to move beyond more
mainstream questions about the reception/representation of women’s war
work to look at new, and equally important issues concerning the post-war
era. For instance, were the reactions of the women’s movement similar in
‘victorious’ nations such as France and the United Kingdom and in
‘defeated’ nations such as Germany, Austria and Hungary? Did women
experience – or were women expected to accept – responsibility for men’s
wartime suffering? And how were gender relations renegotiated in the
context of some of the unresolved conflicts during the immediate aftermath
of war, such as the redrawing of national boundaries, the delayed
repatriation of POWs, and the mass displacement of populations?

If you wish to attend the conference, please send the registration form to the organisers. Final payment for accommodation must reach us by August 12th 2008 and final attendance figures for day delegates must besubmitted to the Conference venue by September 1st 2008. The conference is being organised by Ingrid Sharp and Matthew Stibbe from the Departments of German and History at the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield Hallam.

Please direct queries to Ingrid Sharp at (Fax: 0113 343 3517) and Matthew Stibbe at

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