There's a cliché that comes to mind when the subject of women writers is brought up: "A woman's work is never done", to that age old phrase the words under appreciated should be added -- Women's poetry of World War I is no exception.
As WWI raged, women stepped up and became a mighty force, a ridged backbone during the war effort. This was dark time in history for every man, woman, and child all over the world. Poetry was an outlet for many of these people but for the purpose of this essay I'm going to focus on women's poetry.
During this War of Nations, women left their homes to go to work in factories or actually became part of the war effort -- flying planes, making weapons, nursing the wounded, actually active in the trenches.
The women, who worked in factories or were left back home to wait and wonder about their loved ones, often wrote of their experiences and feelings in prose or poetry. Some of the notable women poets were: Madeline Ida Bedford, Eva Dobell, Marian Allen, and Jessie Pope to name a few.
Madeline Ida Bedford wrote the poem Munition Wages. In this piece she wrote about the wages she made working in a munitions factory. When reading the poem, she seems to be bragging how life was better working in the factory but I read a bit of irony between the lines. Her last stanza sums the meaning up powerfully -- Worth while, for tomorrow if I'm blown to the sky, I'll have repaid my wages, in death – and pass by. www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/projects/jtap/tutorials/intro/women/#wages
Not much information can be found about Madeline Ida Bedford as with many poets, she disappeared from sight.
Jessie Pope wrote the poem The Call. I found this piece to be wistful and sad. She's writing about the lads of war and wondering about the thankfulness of those affected and writes prayers for those fighting the war: Two. I ain't ashamed o' prayers, They're only wishes sent ter God Bits o' plants from bloody sod Trailing up His golden stairs.
Ninety seconds – Well, who cares! One – No fife, no blare, no drum – Over the Top – to Kingdom Come!
She was an English poet and a pro-war propagandist who lived in Britain.
Eva Dobel was a British Nurse who was known to write poems about her patients. She wrote the poem Pluck; But when the dreaded moment's there He'll face us all, a soldier yet, Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air, (Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his Woodbine cigarette.
Marian Allen wrote the poem The Wind on the Downs: Flying, ever flying overhead,
Here still I see your khaki figure pass, And when I leave the meadow, almost wait
That you should open first the wooden gate.
In the above poem she wrote of the landscape and wrote with a naturalistic voice. Not much information can be found on this poet. She may have taken the way many poets of the time and disappeared.
As with all poets, these notable ladies wrote of pain, death, hopes, and dreams. They found poetry an escape mechanism from the bombs, and guns of reality. Even from the trenches of dirt and blood their muse aspired to live on page.
“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape from these”-- Emily Dickinson
Women Poets of WWI
oldpoetry.com/opoem/50172 ‘THE WIND ON THE DOWNS’
MADELINE IDA BEDFORD
oldpoetry.com/oauthor/show/Madeline Ida Bedford
oldpoetry.com/opoem/55288 MUNITION WAGES
oldpoetry.com/opoem/52139 THE CALL
Written July 19th, 2006