CARRY ON: AMERICAN WOMEN AND THE VETERANIST-COMMEMORATION OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR, 1917-1945
Finkelstein, Allison Sarah
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The commemoration of the First World War deeply impacted American culture between 1917 and 1945, and incited a contentious debate about the best forms of military memorialization. All kinds of American women participated in commemorations alongside men, the government, veterans, and the military. Even more frequently, they took part in predominantly female memorialization projects, many of which aided veterans. Organizations composed of American women who believed they served or sacrificed during the First World War defined community service and veterans advocacy as forms of commemoration that they pursued in addition to, or sometimes instead of, more permanent forms of commemoration. In keeping with women's contributions to the war effort and their Progressive era service and reform activities, many American women pursued service-based commemorative projects to serve the nation in ways normally prohibited to them because of gender-based restrictions on their citizenship. This dissertation investigates how American women who served during the First World War commemorated the conflict during the interwar period and through the end of World War Two. It employs the term "veteranist-commemorations" to describe the service-based memorialization projects these women advocated, and designates these women as female "veteranist-commemorators." Rejecting traditional monuments, female veteranist-commemorators placed the plight of male and female veterans at the center of their memorialization efforts. Women's veteranist-commemorations did not solely address veterans of strictly defined military service, but included anyone who sacrificed during the war. Female veteranist-commemorators pioneered a new form of commemoration that revolutionized American memorial practices. Their actions forced Americans to re-think their commemorative practices and provided a new way to conceptualize the definition of a memorial. Through their outspoken support of veteranist-commemorations, these women promoted a type of commemoration that included intangible actions, human bodies, and ephemeral activities as crucial, defined parts of the memorialization process. In doing so, female veteranist-commemorators changed the course of American military commemoration, even though their memorialization methods did not gain as widespread acceptance as they hoped.