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Mental Flannel

A Woman’s Diary, 1913–16: Propaganda and the Construction of Consciousness
  • Vera Brittain

Abstract

The social conventions of the Edwardian era not only prevented a woman from taking part in public affairs by denying her the legal right. They also defined what was womanly in such a way that it seemed actually unnatural for a woman to have any life beyond her family. It was still more unnatural for her to question this. Later writings, by speaking about what could not even be mentioned at the time, make plain the ways in which the First World War resulted in a breakdown of such social rules. Autobiographies, in particular, elucidate the character of the mental restrictions set up by the social taboos of the period. These taboos formed obstructions to women apprehending what it might be to become a full individual and take a knowledgeable part in public activities. By reading the diaries of the Great War period with this hindsight, an immediate sense can be gained of the effects that social rules and cultural definitions had on women’s experience and self-knowledge. Diaries and journals unwittingly exemplify the precise nature of the mental barriers set up to women’s independent thought and awareness, and especially to their comprehension of those very barriers. If the Great War resulted in the breakdown of old social forms, it also resulted in the eventual gate-crashing of forbidden zones, for women as well as for young men.

Keywords

Conscientious Objector Woman Writer Linguistic Convention Sweet Wine Decent Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Claire M. Tylee 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vera Brittain

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