Saturday, September 5, 2015

Writing's Metaphoric Influence

I abhor Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis for one reason alone: he has unintentionally forced that peculiar story to come to mind unbidden every time I come into contact with a bug. Yet this does not occur with just any bug. I assume the deceased author experiences some sort of horrendous and sadistic joy upon learning that his work receives such a reaction that is reserved primarily for beetles and cockroaches. Though other insects are unpleasant, without fail, these armored beings make my skin crawl.

I shiver when glimpsing their spindled legs scurrying along the floorboards or up the wall to vault onto the ceiling. I flinch, suspecting the worst: that the tiny offender is just looking at a chance to fling itself at me or wait till I'm asleep to come bite at my toes hidden under the covers or God forbid crawl across my unconscious face! But you know, within this almost childlike apprehension, I learned a very deep-rooted connection - one I've always known but came to fully realize due to catching the unwanted visitor and disposing of it while images of that grim story simultaneously materialized in my mind.

Writing has power. Of course words are influential when used properly; they are expressive and can convey a myriad of information or compel humans to action based on the struggles or circumstances confronted and overcome by relatable characters. However, a story carries more weight than one would think. The influential nature of pages or digital screens displaying symbolic print reside within the imagination and are stored within the heart carrying long-ranging implications long after the cover has descended and the book returned to the self.

You are never quite certain how writing will affect you and what aspects will linger after cracking open a book's spine for the first time. I for one wish I had never opened Metamorphosis and yet, because I did, Kafka's words have affected my perspective in ways that surpass analytical literary exploration by unapologetically altering my comprehension of not only life, but the powerful way in which words can pierce the soul and forever change someone's mind.

Image (c) Biasia

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Contributions of Women During World War I

Liberty's calling, what's your response?
The progression of women’s roles drastically transformed from the pre-1914 era and blossomed into a period of liberation after the conclusion of World War I. Prior to the Great War, women either lived and worked within the home, served as domestic hands, taught as educators or where trained to assist editorial or administrative offices as secretaries. However, once war sparked in August 1914, the traditionally confiding “woman’s place within the home” altered radically along with the subsequent innovations and societal shifts emerging from the span of World War I.

In the Edwardian era, a woman’s duty consisted primarily of taking care of the home, raising children and participating in the community. Yet, it was rather common for middle-class women to work in factories or on the farm. The Great War demanded an extravagant toll of men, creating an economic gap which women began to fill. As women assumed roles traditionally barred to their gender, their career opportunities and political influence held considerable sway. Many transformed from into fully fledged nurses, journalists and public speakers who rallied unions, political parties and crowds to bring a solution to the needless bloodshed. An example of Edwardian literature and a product of pre-war mentalities, Anne of Green Gables, a piece of literature written by L.M. Montgomery has been adapted to the screen. Within the film, Anne shines as a confident and capable woman working as an author and teacher in the WWI era who ends up serving as a Red Cross volunteer, journalist and pacifistic advocate while seeking to reunite with her fiancé, Gilbert Blythe, a doctor stationed on the Western Front.

A clip detailing Anne's role as a journalist in Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story

Anne's video reveals how journalism and the power of female speakers lead to organized protests which impacted the suffragette movement and added validity to the public opinion of women in the realm of politics and social affairs. 
Propaganda showing women in different sectors of the war effort
 As the government hired and recruited women to partner alongside male soldiers, a significant force of women joined agricultural, industrial and fiscal ventures in order to support the war effort from home. Though women began to replace men in hard labor, such as in the mining, farming and factory industries, most appeared eager to engage in the conflict by enrolling as nurses and war correspondents, using their words and compassion to aid the bleeding and broken hearted.

The practice of “total war” demanded a mobilization of a nation’s entire resources, a financial method of funding the war which allowed for women to adopt economic positions previously limiting female access. For example, The Land Army took thousands of women from the cities and put them to work as “farmerettes” who worked and were paid equally as farmers, wore pants and proved to be such a successful development that the WLA was resurrected during World War II. The war’s impact on their lives most visibly is seen through the absence of male citizens. With the lack of this labor force, national organizations launched to which women clamored in the hopes of serving alongside their male counterparts in order to support their nation by front-line work and through non-combative vantage points.

With the introduction of conscription in 1916, women joined the labor force while others stayed domestic; instead opting to knit socks, raise money by buying war bonds, practicing frugality and through charitable activities. Wealthy women began to run their estates in place of their husband which led to estates being opened as hospitals or orphanages.
Happy Farmerettes of the WLA

In early 1915, women that went abroad to serve worked slightly removed from combat yet still in orderly positions such as medical, police and firefighting task forces. However, their capabilities and the demands of war increased their abilities to serve as ambulance drivers, convoys, medical personnel in the actual trenches and journalist correspondents. Seen as the angels of the battlefield, thousands of women served as nurses and bravely faced bombardments, disease and enemy attacks while aiding their distressed patients. As well as becoming nurses, laborers & members of the Land Army, women even volunteered as air force pilots and surgeons!

Nurses fought not only to save lives but surely saw their service as a means to establish a sense of independence and professionalism. The creation of the Woman’s Armed Forces formed specific roles for women to perform in war zones, such as driving vehicles, providing medical aid, entertaining soldiers through song and dance, serving as base staff and cooks, waitresses, clerks, and journalists; each embracing the innovation to utilize their new found skills. By 1918, millions of women were involved in the war effort.

On November 11, 1918, Armistice Day concluded the tremors initiated by ethnic turmoil in Austria-Hungary four years prior. The war greatly elevated a woman’s station in life yet women were expected to return to the domestic sphere so as to return men’s rightful positions in the work force. Yet the effects of World War I could not be so easily undone. Many young women continued work in male-oriented sectors - secretarial work being the one in which women came to dominate. Fashion changed too due to fabric shortages, which hiked women’s dresses up from their ankles and inspired the wearing of trousers and the trend of short hair just in time for the Jazz Age. However, the most profound impact of WWI for women was in the form of a piece of 1919 legislation which forbid employment discrimination upon the basis of gender as well as the powerful legacy heralded by the Suffragette movement. The organized masses of seasoned women, young and old, having served faithfully out of nationalistic pride and morality, now sought their own liberation. The feminist movement had built momentum and the international conflict poised Europe as well as America for radical change. With the US Constitution's implementation of the 19th Amendment, women’s suffrage triumphed in the form of the right to vote in 1920.

Conclusively, women performed a variety of diverse services throughout World War I and their involvement gleaned much reward. Despite prejudice and difficulty, many women saw wage increase, access to a wider pool of occupations and education which greatly increased their own societal independence and financial stability. The endeavors of the Suffragist movement fostered Edwardian women to throw off repressive patriarchal structures and societal norms in favor of pursuing equality before the law in the realms of political and economic reform. Feminism, existing prior to WWI, was immensely enhanced by the 1914 conflict which, without the intention of doing so, shaped and cultivated gender equality and further established the authentic upholding of Classical Liberalism which validates the intrinsic value and sociopolitical rights of the individual.

Suggested Reading:

Adie, Katie. Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2013.

Atwood, Kathryn J. Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (Women of Action). Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, 2014.

Hallett, Christine E. Veiled Warriors: Allied Nurses of the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Macdonald, Lyn. The Roses of No Man's Land. London: Joseph, 1980.

Newman, Vivien. We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First World War. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword History, 2014.

Nicholson, Virginia. Singled Out: How Two Million British Women Survived Without Men After the First World War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Zeinert, Karen. Those Extraordinary Women: WWI. Brookfield, Connecticut: Millbrook Press, 2001.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Eddie Rickenbacker: Ace of Aces

Known as “America’s Red Baron,” Edward Reichenbacher, the son of Swiss immigrants, grew up during the early 1900s in Columbus, Ohio. An aptitude for speed inclined Eddie to race in multiple Indianapolis 500s in which his skills swiftly vaulted the young man to third place among all American racers in 1916. Driving for different motor companies offered Rickenbacker a substantial income and a mechanical career which soon ignited a passion for the developing field of aviation.

Patriotic heart ablaze, Eddie immediately volunteered to join the armed forces upon the United States' decision to intervene in the international affairs of World War 1.
Innovative and resourceful, he petitioned to form a league of militarized racecar drivers, a unique alternative that was promptly refused. Despite the rejection of his idea, Eddie received a position as the personal driver for General John Pershing and other high-ranking officers. He was even called upon to repair the car of Army Air Service Chief, Billy Mitchell, who insisted on Rickenbacker attending aviation school in France which specialized in training US airmen prior to their deployment to the Western Front. However, he remained at Issoudun as an engineering officer who was permitted to fly outside of his duties yet forbidden from participating in the war. Growing restless with the arrangement, Eddie requested to join the most recent aerial division, the 94th Aero Squadron; a request which was granted.

With fast reflexes and a keen eye, Eddie took to the sky in a Newport 28 until the famous Spat 13 could be mobilized. Though Newport aircrafts were fast and nimble, the machine lacked diving prowess in which many a pilot suffered though up to eighteen thousand feet of brutal wind chill in an open cockpit during the descent.

A WWI Dogfight clip from Flyboys, 2006

Modeled after Eddie's plane, a Spat 13 bears the "Uncle Sam's Hat in the Ring" colors in honor of  the 94th Division
Apparently ambitious, Eddie successfully achieved five confirmed air combat kills within his first month of combat, an act which awarded the French War Cross and elevated the pilot to ace status. He became the commander of the 94th aerial division, entitled "Uncle Sam's Hat in the Ring Squadron" to represent the United States' intention to aid the Allies. At the Great War’s end, Rickenbacker had achieved twenty-six air victories, boasting the greatest destruction rate of enemy planes of any American pilot during World War I. His record proved the necessity for increased air power and the emerging contest for air superiority. With the signing of the Armistice in 1919, he returned to the US and toured the nation as a celebrated hero.

Lavishing in the height of personal fame, Eddie created an auto-manufacturing company, Florida Airways, with fellow WWI pilot Reid Chambers in 1922. Though the company produced quality vehicles, steep competition drove the firm to bankruptcy. Employment with General Motors enabled Eddie to earn enough money to pay his debts and purchase the Indianapolis Speedway, which he maintained until 1940. In 1930, Eddie was one of four men who received the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in WWI yet his participation in international affairs was far from over. On Sept 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, effectively launching the globe into crisis.

Initially, Rickenbacker opposed US intervention yet retracted his opposition upon Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. From the tragedy onward, the famous pilot wholeheartedly supported American involvement and promptly responded to assist as a civilian in military affairs. At the request of Gen. Hap Arnold, Eddie went on a tour of military bases to determine their morale and status. Later, due to Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, Rickenbacker flew off on an ill-fated mission over the Pacific. Drifting 600 miles off course, Rickenbacker and other survivors were fortunately rescued by the Navy twenty four days after impact into the ocean. In 1943, Sec. Stimson again requested Rickenbacker’s services. He was privately commissioned to inspect and gather intelligence from China, India, Iran, North Africa, and the Soviet Union.

At the conclusion of World War II in 1945, Eddie officially retired from the military to pursue the arena of commercial airlines. In the late 1950s, Rickenbacker began to speak adamantly about conservative sociopolitical concerns. An autobiography captures some of his marvelous and stirring feats from the World War I era. The successful and exciting life of Eddie Rickenbacker, stretched between many crucial decades of world events, came to an end with his passing in Zurich, Switzerland on June 23, 1973.

A documentary presented by the Nat. Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Cpt. Rickenbacker's role in WWI

Eddie Rickenbacker’s exploits during the Great War and through his career as an aviation and government consultant prompted the most decorated United States combat pilot to advocate for the vital necessity of American air power. A pioneer in air transportation, Rickenbacker was conscious of ensuring that the legacy of America’s fledgling aviation history was preserved. Today, Eddie is synonymous as an immortal ace and remains a leading figure of national recognition.

Suggested Reading:
Hart, Peter. Aces Falling: War Above the Trenches, 1918. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007.
Groom, Winston. The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2013.
Jeffers, H. Paul. Ace of Aces: The Life of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker. New York: Ballantine Books, 2003.
Lewis, W. David. Eddie Rickenbacker: An American Hero in the Twentieth Century. Auburn, Ala.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.
Malinovska, Anna, and Mauriel Joslyn. Voices in Flight: Conversations with Air Veterans of the Great War. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2006.
Rickenbacker, Eddie. Fighting the Flying Circus. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1965.
Rickenbacker, Eddie. Seven Came Through; Rickenbacker's Full Story. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1943.
Ross, John F. Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed. St. Martin's Press, 2014.