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Total WarAn Emotional History$
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Lucy Noakes, Claire Langhamer, and Claudia Siebrecht

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266663

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266663.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 25 November 2020

Little Ruby’s Hand: Young Women and the Emotional Experience of Caregiving in Britain after the First World War

Little Ruby’s Hand: Young Women and the Emotional Experience of Caregiving in Britain after the First World War

Chapter:
(p.59) 4 Little Ruby’s Hand: Young Women and the Emotional Experience of Caregiving in Britain after the First World War
Source:
Total War
Author(s):

Michael Roper

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266663.003.0004

‘Little Ruby’ was the daughter of the head gardener at St Dunstan’s, the voluntary organisation set up in 1915 to support blinded servicemen, whose role as a guide was widely represented in pictures and sculptures during the war and who became an iconic symbol of the charity. This chapter draws on the story of Ruby to explore the role played by children—and young girls in particular—in the care of disabled soldiers after the war. Based on interviews with descendants born in the 1920s and 1930s, and now in their eighties and nineties, it explores the domestic history of caregiving through the eyes of daughters. Their experience of growing up was often at odds with the historical narratives surrounding young women between the wars, who are assumed to have enjoyed more freedom and leisure than their mothers. Many daughters of disabled servicemen experienced strong pressures to remain living at home and help their mothers through domestic and paid work. Their ambitions for education, career and service during the Second World War were often constrained. Looking back now, in an age where the domestic obligations of young women are fewer and their career aspirations are taken more seriously, the women expressed contrary feelings. On the one hand, they continued to regard familial duty as a valued aspect of their identities as daughters. On the other hand, they talked about the emotional pressures of care and their regrets at opportunities lost. Focusing on the life course from girlhood to old age, the chapter reveals the impact of the First World War across the 20th century and through the lives of those born after the conflict’s end.

Keywords:   disabled veterans, daughters and caregiving, First World War legacies, trauma, inter-generational transmission, St Dunstan’s Hostel

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