…in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the American Constitution was officially ratified, giving women the right to vote.
Over the weekend I watched the director’s cut of one of my old favourites; ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ (1992). (Who doesn’t love Daniel Day Lewis?!) However historically accurate in setting, costume and dialogue, Michael Mann’s film is actually very different to the novel upon which it is based… [Spoilers ahead]
In the film, the brave, intelligent and charismatic Cora Munro falls in love with the scout Hawk-eye (also known as Nathaniel), much to the disappointment of Major Duncan Hayward, who wanted her for his wife. Her meek, juvenile sister Alice has a largely off-screen, never fully realised romantic relationship with the Native American Indian Uncas, who ultimately loses his life trying to save her from the villainous Magua. After Uncas’ death, and fearing life as Magua’s wife, Alice takes her own life.
In James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name, first published in 1826, it is Alice who is desired by Duncan – and even ends up marrying him – while Cora is doomed to the tragic love affair with Uncas instead. And poor Day Lewis’ Hawk-eye enjoys no romance whatsoever. Cora’s changing fate is the result of changing attitudes towards women between the time the novel was set (1757) and written (1826), and the time the film was made (1992).
…in 1847, Charlotte Brontë sent a manuscript of Jane Eyre to her publisher in London. Due to the misogyny of the time, Charlotte wrote under the pseudonym ‘Currer Bell,’ so that her work would be taken more seriously. Her sisters, Emily and Anne, did the same, writing as ‘Ellis Bell’ and ‘Acton Bell’.
Thirteen days before her execution, Anne Boleyn is believed to have written this letter to her husband, King Henry VIII of England. While the authenticity of this letter is still up for debate, the passion and personality of the writing certainly suggests it could have been written by Anne. Contemporaries noted with awe (and perhaps a little horror) how she was not afraid to stand up to the King. While this undoubtedly originally drew Henry to her, it was also something he soon grew tired of when she was unable to provide him with a male heir. It’s no wonder, really, that Henry’s next wife was the meek and mild Jane Seymore, as far removed from the feisty Anne as you could possibly get.
Agent Of Peace: Emily Hobhouse and her Courageous Attempt to End the First World War – Jennifer Hobhouse Balme Verdict: A slow-paced book that reflects the political atmosphere of the time. Emily’s lengthy journal extracts, particularly her time in occupied Belgium … Continue reading
While wartime films did open up passage of gender exploration for both film-makers and audiences, the war itself meant that the discourse could not be as radical or far-reaching as some might have hoped. For the sake of both national … Continue reading
The question of female identity inevitably encouraged both film-makers and audiences to explore ideas of masculinity, in particular the relationship between heroism and men in non-combatant roles. If men had to fight to prove their masculinity, what did that mean … Continue reading
A crucial concern of the wartime discourse on gender was that of duty versus desire, explored in the melodramas and Brief Encounter. L. K. Gordon of Leicester wrote to the Leicester Evening Mail in 1943 stating that ‘the war had … Continue reading
The anxious discourse on female mobilisation during the war also concerned the perceived necessity of protecting the femininity of these women. Gender distinctions rest largely on appearance, thus “these trouser-clad androgynies destabilised the polarisation upon which gendered identity normally rested”. … Continue reading