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Women of warGender, modernity and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry$
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Juliette Pattinson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526145659

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7765/9781526145666

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‘Gloried in her grotesque and spurious manhood’: Driving in the First World War

‘Gloried in her grotesque and spurious manhood’: Driving in the First World War

(p.216) 5 ‘Gloried in her grotesque and spurious manhood’: Driving in the First World War
Women of war

Juliette Pattinson

Manchester University Press

Driving was an aspect of female war service that did not fit within the discourse of nurturing and care, roles traditionally attributed to women. The pot-holed roads of France present a useful terrain – both literal and contextual – in which to theorise the female ambulance driver-mechanic as a symbol of gender modernity. The chapter begins by examininng the motor car as a symbol of modern femininity. It unpicks the censored accounts of FANYs’ letters home, reports published in the Corps’s magazine and newspaper articles, the embellished tales of daring told during the war to publicise the unit’s activities, and retrospective accounts captured in print and on tape, in order to reveal both the thoroughly modern pleasures and the perils of driving and car maintenance. It considers media attitudes toward the female driver and the establishment opposition they slowly eroded. While the war enabled the performance of new configurations of female masculinity, providing a space where women could play with their gender identities, protected by their class background, there is little evidence of a wish to overturn existing gender relations or of expressions of a long-lasting transformation to their gendered subjectivities. They pushed the bounds of convention but stayed within its limits.

Keywords:   First World War, driving, ambulances, mechanics, cars, female masculinities

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