Near these ridiculous "poseuses" stood the real thing--a British Officer in mufti. He had lost his left arm and right leg. . . . [I]f these women had a spark of shame left they should have blushed to be seen wearing a parody of the uniform which this officer and thousands like him have made a symbol of honour and glory by their deeds. I do not know the corps to which these ladies belong, but if they cannot become nurses or ward maids in hospital, let them put on sunbonnets and print frocks and go and make hay or pick fruit or make jam. 44
Some of these blood-soaked (and gender-marked) coats are exhibited in the museum of World War I at Le Linge in Alsace, where trenches dating from the war are still in place, the German concrete bunkers a vivid contrast to the flimsy French earthworks. Signs tell visitors not to stray from the path, as mines may still be active. The pathetic and moving personal belongings of soldiers are on view, along with strategic maps of every battle in the war. The propaganda posters and literature of both sides are equally bloodyminded. I am writing this essay in Strasbourg, where Gutenberg invented the printing press and where Rouget de Lisle sang the Marseillaise for the first time in 1792; where Drivier's unique sculpture ( 1936) in the Place de la Republique shows a mother with two sons, one dead for Germany and the other dead for France. The other night there was a small demonstration by Alsatian socialists in the Cathedral Square to commemorate the anniversary of the Paris Commune. A group of young women sang in high, sweet voices, surrounded by votive candles, as others carried signs supporting the current struggles in New Caledonia and South Africa. It rains here all the time. I am never out of my trench coat.
This essay appears as the Afterword to the 1988 reprint of Not So Quiet . . . and is reprinted with some changes by the kind permission of Florence Howe and the Feminist Press, New York. I am grateful to the staff at the Feminist Press, particularly my editor, Joanne O'Hare, and Eliza Galaher, who typed the manuscript, for a judicious combination of critique and support.