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War Widows, Fallen Soldiers, and the Remaking of the Nation after the Great War

Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more. Volume 75 , Issue 3.

The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Historian Volume 75, Issue 3. Erika Quinn Eureka College Search for more papers by this author. Read the full text. Although many nation states tried to help them materially, they were often looking for political and social control in return.

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Of little comfort: war widows, fallen soldiers, and the remaking of nation after the Great War

The total number of women widowed as a result of the First World War is estimated to be 3 to 4 million. According to the historian Jay Winter , one third of the total 9. The number of German, British and Italian widows after the war, compared to the relative number of soldiers lost in these countries corroborates this estimate. For example, in , there were , widows in Germany and 2,, military men killed or missing; in Great Britain , there were , widows and , military men killed or missing; and in Italy , there were , widows and , military men killed or missing.


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France , on the other hand, presents an exception with the number of war widows reaching half the number of total losses: , widows and 1,, military men killed or missing. The conventions these women were subjected to were no different from those applying to widows in general. They had to wear mourning attire and respect a several month period of widowhood.

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The funeral rituals were, however, more specific to their situations, due largely to the temporary or definitive absence of a corpse. Those who did not respect these rituals or conventions ran the risk of being seen as unfaithful widows. The concept of the unfaithful widow had existed before the war, but regained popularity during the conflict due in large part to soldiers who feared being betrayed or forgotten, and moralists who saw widowed women as a possible source of social disorder that could potentially contribute to the military defeat of their respective countries.

Conventions of mourning were also affected by the different types of legislation regulating military burials within each country, which greatly affected mourning and commemoration rituals.

Of Little Comfort: War Widows, Fallen Soldiers, and the Remaking of the Nation after the Great War

In Britain, where there was a strict policy concerning burying fallen soldiers in situ , widows had to go abroad, whilst in Italy, France or United States , there was the possibility of recovering remains at the end of the war. The belligerent states promoted, or confirmed, legislation aimed at materially supporting war widows. Most of them granted a war pension with a supplement for the children , although pension amounts, as well as the attribution criteria varied from one country to another. Pensions were partially or totally lost by the widows in the case of remarriage.

Cultural Trauma and Welfare for War Widows in India

Even in their full capacities, these pensions were insufficient to cover the daily needs of the widows, many of whom topped up their incomes by working, or relied on help from their families or new spouses. Some of the poorest widows also had recourse to charitable associations. In exchange for this help, the public powers allowed themselves to exercise fairly strong control over war widows. Library availability.

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