Article: Woman and War

Written for Mufti by a Special Correspondent

Published in Mufti, 1 July 1935

Paid 14/-

I’m only a woman – one of those queer creatures who vote the same way as their husbands on election day. But I’m possessed of a bete noir – it’s war. I’m afraid of war. I’m afraid of all the rumours in the press – the fact that those rumours have been there almost since 1918 doesn’t give me any comfort. I know it will come.

I can’t see any glory in war. Truly, a man looks well in uniform, shining buttons, shining boots, gleaming bayonet, against a background of waving flags and medals. But that’s not war – that’s camouflage. Bayonets don’t gleam when they’re in action – they’re dull with sticky, red blood; and medals are all very well, but I would give one to every man who has carried his rifle over the top. The uniform means nothing to me – funny, isn’t it, because I’m a woman? I’m very proud of my country too, prouder still of my men with their long, splendid limbs, their careless strength, and their open faces – but that’s why I hate war.

You see – I’ve got a son.

And I dream at night, of old men who plot evilly. I see a solemn, high-ceilinged room, with carved, tall-backed chairs and a long, gleaming table, and a carpet so thick that even the heaviest of the old men might be as light as a cat. They’re very well-fed old men – though, perhaps, some of them are not so old – and they wear grey striped trousers and morning coats. They’re epicurians in grey striped trousers and morning coats and wines. They talk. The world has reached a financial crisis; the money must be diverted into the right pockets, somehow – the world has a disastrous number of unemployed, all the armament factories are idle – the world is over-populated and birth-control is not really proper – what we want is another war. Put us all on our feet again! And they lean back comfortably in their plush-bottomed chairs.

Yes – I’ve got a son. And one morning I’m going to awake to a great blowing of trumpets, and shouting and excitement. Newsboys are going to shrill in the streets and the press offices are going to make the most of their scoop. But I’m going to lock myself in my little bedroom – and cry. Because war is declared. I’m not sure what it is all about, I don’t know much about the workings of governments or high finance, and the ratio of machinery and the census is only a new form of puzzle to me. I only know that people say a man must fight for God, King and Country. Just why God is dragged into these animal conflicts I’ve never been able to discover. I suppose the Name lends an air to the whole business – just the same as a party takes on tone when a title is thrown in among the list of those present. And the King seems such a nice old man – it seems a shame to put the blame on those fatherly shoulders. As for the country – well, there’s been no sound of an invader knocking at the gates yet, Still, that’s all beside the point – war is declared and my son must don khaki and take himself off to be killed, otherwise Isabel will break off their engagement and the lady next door – who has no son – will cut me in the street. He does it very gladly – he believes in the slogan for God, King and Country. He doesn’t approve of my tears. After all, I’m only the woman who bore him – in agony – for this.

Previous Next

The article - scanned.

Women and War - Mufti, 1 July 1935.

We’re not quite civilised, you know, else war would not even be discussed. And therein lies our hope – that we will become civilized. The foundation of that hope, I believe, rests with womankind. They hold in their hands the remedy against war, against those evil old men. Women don’t fight, at least, not in countries where they are still women, and are credited with having finer, more delicate feelings than men so that, naturally, it is to them the world must look to be led to a higher plane. Besides, they bear these men, these soldiers – in stress of pain – and protection of their children is woman’s birthright. Suppose women laughed at war, ridiculed it, held it up as the atrocity it is, how many men would see glamour in the mud and slush and stench of trenches, in the flowing of blood, and carnage of innocent souls who died wondering what it is all about. How many men fight not because they are so inhuman that they find satisfaction in taking life, but because some woman has wept soft tears of pride over her man who is doing his bit?

If only women would realize what power lies in those tears if they were used against this evil! But they’re not quite ready to open their eyes yet, there’s still too much of the savage in them – the same streak of savagery that enjoys seeing two men fight over their very desirable body.

Nobody has forgotten the last war, so it is safe to assume that nobody has forgotten those sewing circles. Oh! dear, didn’t we feel important – sewing for our dear boys – doing our bit! Giving up our afternoons to sewing shirts and drinking tea and pleasant rivalry over who could bake the choicest cakes while, with chatter-chatter, we glorified war into the heritage of manhood and wove about ourselves a halo of sacrifice and martyrdom.

The heritage of manhood is life – not death – until the age of three-score and ten. Then let women cease to be the most efficient recruiting officers that the forces of war possess; let them set their faces resolutely against war, looking at it for the monster it is. Believe me, it is a monster – I had a son.