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Theater Arts of the Allies in the Great War (March 2013): Contributions by Women

By Felicia Hardison Londré

Contributions by Women

Joan of Arc stands at the forefront of heroic representations of women.  In Redemption by War: The Intellectuals and 1914, discussed above, Roland Stromberg credits poet-playwright Charles Péguy as “creator of the cult of Joan of Arc” (see endnote 4).  Indeed, Péguy had written four pieces about “the maid” before he was killed in combat at the Marne in 1914.  Other books show how Joan of Arc’s image was used to stir patriotic spirit not only in France but also in the United States.  Among those books are Nora Heimann and Laura Coyle’s Joan of Arc: Her Image in France and America (with a section by Coyle on Joan of Arc’s image in America during the Gilded Age and Great War) and Robin Blaetz’s Visions of the Maid: Joan of Arc in American Film and Culture, which begins coverage in 1911 and is largely devoted to the first half of the twentieth century.  An Internet search will turn up dozens of pageant scripts, one-act and full-length plays about Joan of Arc written during and after the war (and possibly also inspired by her canonization in 1920).

Susan Zeiger’s In Uncle Sam’s Service: Women Workers with the American Expeditionary Forces, 1917-1919 includes theatrical figures like Elsie Janis and Elisabeth Marbury among the nurses, canteen workers, and telephone operators who served abroad.  Lettie Gavin devotes one of the nine chapters in American Women in World War I: They Also Served to the women of the YMCA, which recognized the entertainment needs of soldiers and sponsored touring artists like Elsie Janis.  Entertainers also figure in Dorothy Schneider and Carl Schneider’s Into the Breach: American Women Overseas in World War I.  Claire Tylee, editor of two previously discussed books on Great War-related plays by women, also wrote The Great War and Women’s Consciousness: Images of Militarism and Womanhood in Women’s Writings, 1914-64, a study of women’s writing about World War I and other wars and the issues they faced as writers.