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May SinclairRe-Thinking Bodies and Minds$
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Rebecca Bowler and Claire Drewery

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474415750

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474415750.001.0001

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‘Odd How the War Changes Us’: May Sinclair and Women’s War Work

‘Odd How the War Changes Us’: May Sinclair and Women’s War Work

(p.194) Chapter 10 ‘Odd How the War Changes Us’: May Sinclair and Women’s War Work
May Sinclair

Emma Liggins

Edinburgh University Press

Due to her experiences in Hector Munro’s Ambulance Corps in Belgium in 1914, Sinclair was able to comment both in her memoir and her war fiction on the ways in which middle-class women’s involvement in the new working opportunities offered by the war helped to revise ideologies of gender and sexuality, not least in terms of their occupation of the public sphere. However, her public endorsement of women’s work is at odds with contradictory attitudes to the woman worker in her fiction, who is often repositioned in the boredom of home in the final chapters. Developing critical discussions of Sinclair as a writer of spinster fiction (Pease 2012; Liggins 2014), I address the ways in which unmarried heroines negotiate their outsider non-combatant position. Narratives about the hierarchical structures of these new ambulance corps always focus on the activity of driving as a test-case for women’s fitness for war service; I argue that this can be read in terms of negotiations about gender and power. Sexual difference appears inescapable on the Front, even as Sinclair considers ways in which it might be transcended through war work.

Keywords:   war, women, work, public, labour, power, gender

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