TCU professor presents lecture of women in war

Great War Series continues with the Great War

By Sophia Gravatt
On November 2, 2018

Photo by Axel Marcenaro: Students take notes as Professor Kara D. Vuic speaks on the role women took in France during the Great War. The C.J. Davidson Center was almost completely packed for this piece of the Great War Series.

The Great War Centennial Commemoration Lecture Series on Oct. 23 presented "‘Oh Boy, That’s the Girl!’: Women and the Great War" in the C.J. Davidson Conference Center at ASU.

Kara Dixon Vuic, the Lance Cpl. Benjamin W. Schmidt professor of war, conflict and society at Texas Christian University, hosted the lecture. Vuic spoke about the women who went to France with American soldiers during World War I.

"There were about 3,500 women who went to France, Britain and Germany to entertain American soldiers during what was then called ‘the Great War,’" she said. "Most of them went with the YMCA and about 100 of them went with the Salvation Army."

Vuic said this project does not have an official title, but she referred to it as the "Canteen Projects." Most of the women who were picked to participate were typically single, predominantly white and in their late 20s or early 30s, she said. They spent most of their time in huts close to the front and operated "rolling kitchens," handing hot chocolate out to the soldiers.

"So, what I’m interested in is why the military is spending money and devoting resources to making sure that the soldiers have this kind of entertainment," Vuic said. "Why is it particularly concerned with women?"

She said before World War I, most Americans did not think of the military the way we do today.

"They thought that soldiers just got into trouble," Vuic said. "At the time, Paris and France were thought of as kind of like the land of debauchery and craziness, so a lot of Americans thought, ‘you’re going to draft my son and send him to Paris and he’s just going to get into trouble.’"

She said one military official wrote: "The idea is to send the right kind of women. Women who will remind them of their mothers, sisters and sweethearts and will encourage them to walk the straight and narrow."

Vuic said that this project took the notion that women are moral and had a motherly influence, but it moved the role into a new place. It gave women a new wartime role without upsetting what people thought they were supposed to do.

"So, I think that this story of women tells us a lot about the war and women’s history. It continues a long history of women’s service with the military, but it also begins another century of women’s service in different ways," Vuic said.

Freshman Kassidy Feldman said she came to the lecture as an extra credit opportunity for her history class.

"I was actually really interested in it though. It’s crazy to think about; like if I was in that time period," she said.

Sophomore Amber Price said she attended for extra credit, as well.

"I thought it was really cool. I’m not that into history, but stuff like this is really interesting to me. I enjoyed coming here tonight."

This was the second and last Great War Series lecture of the 2018 fall semester. Three more lectures will be presented in the spring.

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