Scottish soldier-heroes and patriotic war heroines: the gendered politics of World War I commemoration

Nataliya Danilova* (Corresponding Author), Emma Dolan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper explores the (re)production of embodied gendered and racialised identities as part of commemorations devised by the Scottish government to mark the Centenary of WWI, 2014–18. In particular, we demonstrate how the Centenary has re-established Scotland’s key contribution to British military power instead of providing a platform for a broader discussion of British wars and Scotland’s role therein. Our analysis posits that this reframing was achieved through the (re)production of a gendered polarisation between white ‘dead’ soldier-heroes, ‘local lads’ and bearers of a ‘proud Scottish military tradition’; and women as embodiments of patriotic motherhood. We further explore the deployment of specific discursive and performative means to transform Dr Elsie Inglis, the only woman whose contribution was singled out by WW100 Scotland, into a patriotic war heroine. This was achieved by the militarisation of her work; the obscuring of identity, class- and race-based hierarchies within women’s war-work; and, finally, through the subversion of feminist ideas and practices in Inglis’ work for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. Lastly, we reflect on the gendered legacy of the Centenary, emphasising the necessity for critical engagement with Britain’s wars and Scotland’s role therein.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-260
Number of pages22
JournalGender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography
Issue number2
Early online date17 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

The draft of this paper was presented at the EWIS in Groningen, 6–9 June 2018, and we would like to thank participants for instructive feedback. We also express our gratitude to those who promoted the legacy of Dr. Elsie Inglis for many years, and agreed to comment on the draft of this paper. Finally, we would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on earlier versions of this article as well as Cynthia Enloe and Andrew Mycock for their feedback and encouragement.

This paper results from the project, ‘War Commemoration, Military Culture and Identity Politics in Scotland’ funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities in Scotland, 2017–18 (RG13890/70560).


  • gender
  • commemoration
  • performance
  • militarisation
  • Britain


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