Since launching in 2015, the AHA Today Summer Blog Contest has focused on one thing: to give graduate students an opportunity to hone their communication skills by giving them access to a public platform. This year, our winners, Bridget Keown (Northeastern Univ.) and Bernard C. Moore (SOAS, Univ. of London), in four posts each, shared their research with AHA Today readers, and in the process enlightened us about subjects as diverse as women and trauma during World War I and the relationships between animals and humans under colonialism in Namibia.
In 1920, Britain changed its pension laws to allow women to receive compensation for any injuries sustained during the First World War. However, because time had passed since their active service, many found themselves having to prove that their symptoms were directly related to their war experience (and not a result of prewar hereditary conditions or postwar events). They had to find a doctor, a superior from their service, or, at the very least, a family member who could attest that the cause of their suffering was from their service.
One of the most challenging aspects of studying the case notes of women treated for war trauma is that I encounter them at some of the worst moments of their lives. There are often few ways to find more information about them, or to learn what their lives were like after they were released. In many cases, the only story that I can craft about the women I study is about their incarceration in asylums and hospitals, or about their struggle for pensions and medical recognition through their postwar pension files.
The image of the “shell-shocked soldier” remains one of the most enduring of the First World War. His symptoms have become fundamental to understanding the war and the damage it inflicted on the human mind and spirit. Soldiers, however, were not the only war participants to suffer psychological trauma. Women—both on the battle front and the home front—exhibited symptoms of trauma directly related to their war experience, as evidenced by case notes, hospital records, pension files, and correspondence. It is their experiences that I wish to highlight in my AHA Today summer contest blog posts.
Usha Sanyal is an independent scholar and adjunct instructor at Queens University of Charlotte. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has been a member since 2010.
Melinda Chateauvert is an associate director of the Front Porch Research Strategy in New Orleans, Louisiana. She divides her year between New Orleans and Washington, DC, and has been a member of the AHA since 1992.
By Michelle M. Martin
When I began my directorship of the Little House on the Prairie Museum south of Independence, Kansas, the promise and challenges the museum faced swirled in my mind. For any small historic house museum, problems tend to outweigh the possibilities. Founded in 1977, the Little House on the Prairie Museum preserves the Kansas homesite where Charles Ingalls and his family lived from 1869–71. The museum features a replica of the one-room cabin the family lived in while in Kansas along with a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse and post office moved to the site to ensure their preservation.
Lilian Calles Barger is an independent scholar. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, and has been a member since 2008.