Sunday, April 25, 2010
Misplaced feminine zeal - Order of the White Feather
The War was also a watershed in the advancement of women, in that many of them stepped in and took over male jobs for the first time and proved that they were far tougher and more resilient than the “feeble” stereotype so beloved of Victorian and Edwardian men.
However, not all women did their bit in practical and admirable ways and some became involved in a shameful organisation that caused untold psychological damage to not only the men who became its victims, but to subsequent generations of their families. It was known as the Active Service League and its “award” was the Order of the White Feather – white feathers being presented in public places to men who were perceived to be cowards.
Surprisingly, one of its founders was the Tasmanian-born and ardent anti-suffragist, Mrs Humphrey Ward (Mary Augusta), whose family included such famous literary figures as Matthew Arnold and Aldous Huxley.
It seems remarkable today that a woman of high intellect committed to social reform for women and children such as Mrs Ward could have thought that financial, military, constititutional, and international problems could only be solved by men!