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UConn professor explores women's views of World War I (Released: 10/26/99)

by Allison Thompson, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- Though both women and men are deeply affected by war, the idea of conflict is often seen as inherently masculine.

In Lines of Fire: Women Writers of World War I, readers are treated to war as seen through the eyes of a diverse group of women.

Margaret Higonnet, the book's editor and an English professor at the University of Connecticut, has compiled works written by well-known female authors and journalists as well as by anonymous women whose lives were disrupted by the war. Unlike other anthologies, Higonnet's work combines fiction with non-fiction to present a complete view of women's experiences during the war.

In addition, the book includes artwork by women, much of it from the University of Connecticut's art collection, Higonnet said.

Higonnet spent a dozen years collecting works for the book. She began by looking for fiction and poetry by American women about the war. Higonnet later enlisted other scholars to help her search for works by authors from around the world.

"This book is really a collection of gifts that came to me from colleagues," Higonnet says.

The completed book contains poetry, journalistic accounts, short stories, medical accounts and political treatises. The featured authors are from America, Britain, India, Hungary and other countries.

"The book is international and interdisciplinary," Higonnet says.

Authors range from well-known writers such as Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton to historical figures like Jeanette Rankin, the first woman in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Mata Hari. Others include an anonymous Irish woman who speculates about whether her husband is alive, a Hungarian countess who writes about her experience inspecting Russian POW camps for the Red Cross and an Italian field nurse who recalls an amputation.

Though the events written about in Lines of Fire happened more than 80 years ago, the effects of the war are still being felt.

"We're still living with the backwash of World War I," Higonnet says.

Higonnet joined the UConn faculty in 1970. She is the editor of Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars and the author of several books.