Women and War in History

Historically speaking, this is nonsense. Women have been warriors throughout the ages, both in cultures which honored them, and in those which tried to suppress them. If the subject interests you (and I always encourage research), please read through the Women Warriors section on the fascinating web site GenderGap.

There's a Bibliography at the end of the "Women Warriors" page. I find it both telling and very sad most of the factual books on historical women and war are out of print, despite their being mostly no more than about 20 years old.

Later edit:
Gendergap.com is unfortunately gone; try Women as Warriors in History: 3500BC to the 20th Century (or check the archived copy here). Web sites do vanish on occasion, so you might also try De Pauw's Battle Cries and Lullabies instead.

Still, let us return to Tolkien and his times. In the book the women and children were sent away, although during WWII they had to live through the bombing of London just like everyone else. I was asked by a friend if perhaps there was, from those times where Londoners had to sit out bombings in basements, some justification for Jackson's portrayal of women as cowering and weeping?

Nice try, but no cigar. Many years ago, for a class project, I was lucky enough to talk to an English nurse stationed in London during the bombing in World War II. She was an amazing woman, and told her stories briskly and with enthusiasm.

She talked of people calmly comforting the children, not cowering with them, and of both men and women needing that comfort as well sometimes — because everyone went underground when the bombs fell, just as everyone helped with the subsequent digging out, and retrieval of the dead and injured.

She related with pride helping people keep their courage up and smile for the children, even if shakily, by briskly reminding them they were English — what were a few silly German bombs to that?!

She cheerfully talked about listening to the high-pitched squeal of falling bombs and counting the seconds until they landed — and if you couldn't count all the way to five or so, well then, the bomb would be landing on you!

Most moving to me was her relating stories of everyone sitting together, sometimes in utter darkness, holding hands and singing patriotic songs to keep their spirits up — while the ground around them shook from the bombings.

Now that's bravery. Why couldn't Jackson have shown that?

Another friend pointed out if the women had helped on the walls of Helm's Deep, then Eowyn's sneaking off in armor to fight like a man would have lost much of its emotional impact.

All well and good, but yet again — why were the women shown as so cowardly? Why did Jackson treat the women of Helm's Deep so shabbily, instead of just sending them off someplace safe — like Tolkien did in his book?

more tomorrow…

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