I sacrificed my long lie this Saturday to attend an exciting symposium at Glasgow Women’s Library which was part of the Being Human Festival. Was it worth crawling out of bed a couple of hours earlier? Absolutely!
The title of the event was ‘Wait, Weep and Be Worthy? Women and the First World War’ and the programme was jam-packed with top class speakers – it was a no-brainer to sign up for this free event.
Reporting from France for the Saturday Evening Post in 1914, journalist Cora Harris concluded: ‘What men suffer through war is written in histories…but what women suffer is never written.’
The aim of the symposium was to explore the often neglected role of women during the First World War and its immediate aftermath.
The day kicked off with a presentation by Angela Smith on ‘The Impact of the First World War on the Campaign for Women’s Suffrage’’ followed by Martin Goodman on ‘Women as Carers in the First World War’. Both speakers were excellent and with stories and images of key figures from the period such as the Pankhurst family, Elise Inglis, Ruth Farnam and Nancy Astor they brought the issues to life.
For me, the highlight of the day was Kate Adie, who has blazed a trail for women in journalism as Britain’s leading female war reporter.
Years ago I heard Kate speak about her media work and I knew she’d be superb and once again she had the audience hanging on her every word. She recounted her time in Serbia when she came across the story of a heroine named Flora Sandes and commended women like her for stepping out of their comfort zone to play a major part in WW1.
After a lovely lunch I joined a group of women for a creative writing workshop with Zoë Strachan and Louise Welsh. We were asked to consider the type of women we’d heard about that morning and how their stories might inspire us to create a character who might write a letter about their experience in the war.
This exercise helped me to reflect on my next writing project and the impact of the Siege of Leningrad on women.
I wasn’t able to stay for the rest of the day’s programme but I left with a lot more knowledge of the role of women in WW1 as well as ideas to explore in my own writing. That’s what I call a satisfying and successful Saturday!