Term of Award

Fall 2016

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of History

Committee Chair

Brian Feltman

Committee Member 1

William Allison

Committee Member 2

Robert Batchelor


The historiography of the First World War in Great Britain has focused mainly on military matters, leaving home front experiences temporarily unexplored. While the soldier’s experience remains invaluable to historians, studies of women and the home front are significant. The White Feather Campaign, which called for women to give white feathers denoting cowardice to men in civilian dress, who allegedly had not enlisted, remains vivid in British historical memory, but few scholarly works have examined it thoroughly. Historians such as Nicoletta F. Gullace and Susan R. Grayzel have shed light on British women in the war, but there remains further room for study. Because of the shared war effort and the urgent need to recruit volunteers, white feather giving spread from the mother country to its territories. As no major works have studied the connections between white feather practices in Britain and in its Dominions, specifically Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, this thesis examines this transnational aspect of the evolving relationship between war and gender.

As British and Commonwealth women distributed white feathers to accused “cowards” and “shirkers” in civilian dress, they attempted to influence political opinion. By shaming men, they aimed to convince them to be real men by enlisting to protect their homeland from the enemy. Through sending letters containing white feathers, they confronted men privately with an implied threat to do so publicly. In a national political setting which did not allow women to vote, giving white feathers was a radical way in which women could make their voices heard.

Research Data and Supplementary Material