Introduction: Faces of Edith Cavell
Edith Cavell has been portrayed in many different ways, and this book examines her myriad “faces”, as they have been constructed and handed down by propagandists, biographers, and artists. Its introduction relates these ideas to a rigorous form of “public history”, in which analysis can intersect with commemoration. Edith Cavell was first introduced to the British public through a series of Foreign Office statements which claimed to establish the “facts” of her case. Her own voice, along with those of her family, colleagues, and friends, was muted, as a monolithic image of a national heroine and martyr emerged. The two main areas of tension in her commemoration are identified. The difference between the complexity of her behaviour and motivations and the simplicity of the “legend” that was constructed around her is highlighted. And the attempts of individuals and professional organisations to commemorate her life and work are contrasted with the public construction of a “heroine” who could be of value to the nation state.