Monday, March 31, 2014

Women and World War I presentation at Cuyamaca College

Cuyamaca College history professors give presentation
Women and World War I
Mata Hari, history’s most notorious female spy, and Edith Wilson, second wife of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the de facto leader of the nation from October 1919 until  March 1921, were among those featured during Thursday’s panel presentation at Cuyamaca College focusing on women and World War I.
Presented by the history department and the college’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, the event held before a packed audience of students and faculty inside the Student Center also covered the topics “U.S. Woman at Home and Abroad during World War I,” “World War I Nurses, Medics and Red Cross Workers, “ and “World War I and the Suffrage Movement.”

With 2014 as the centennial year for World War I, the history faculty decided to link the anniversary with Women’s History Month.

Mata Hari, exotic dancer and convicted spy
“We thought it was appropriate to discuss the wide range of women’s participation in the war,” said instructor Mariah Gonzalez-Meeks, who was joined by history faculty members Terry Valverde, Jennifer Hernandez and Susan Haber. “We chose to discuss everyday women and their participation in the home front as well as the role women played on the frontlines as nurses and Red Cross workers. Our goal was to demonstrate the wide range of women’s participation and their importance to the war effort.”

From knitting socks for soldiers on the battlefront to volunteering for the Woman’s Land Army of America, an organization created for women to work in agriculture in place of men called up to the military, women did their part to support a nation at war, the panelists said.

Edith Wilson, called the first modern First Lady by historians, should have actually been labeled America’s first women president, Haber said, because of her behind-the-scenes, but very active role in politics after her husband suffered a stroke that left him severely disabled during the last years of his second term.

“The Constitution didn’t yet address the assumption of the presidency in times of incapacitation,” Haber said. “Edith Wilson wouldn’t allow even the members of cabinet to meet with her bedridden husband. But he had schooled her well in politics – she knew the ropes.”