Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Barbara Cartland on women (and men) during the war

First some exciting news: I've just realised that my copy of The Years of Opportunity 1939-1945 is signed by the author.

But I promised you some of the surprising  wisdom of Barbara Cartland on women, children and the war years.

The creator of hundreds of virgin heroines was no naïf herself. She writes of young women who were serving in the forces:

Pregnancies were always a problem. But I want to say this and to say it after six years’ experience of Welfare work: there has been a lot of nonsense talked about the immorality of Service women and the number of illegitimate children born to them. I think it was absolutely amazing how few unwanted babies there were – only an infinitesimal percentage of the women serving.

After all, if you put men and women together in close proximity in a danger shared, mutual attraction … is what we should expect.

And when women did become pregnant:

It was nearly always a case of being brought up in ignorance, of being given a new and exciting freedom in the Services, and often of being 'stood a drink' for the first time in their lives! Many of them didn't know what was wrong with them, and when the M.O. told them they were going to have a baby they were stunned and astonished.

Not that the men were much better informed:

I know one R.A.F. padre who had a straight talk with every man on his Station who came to him wanting to get married or in domestic trouble. He said the abysmal ignorance of the average man about women and love was appalling.

And here is Cartland on civilian women who became pregnant:

Those who never have been tempted and had the opportunity to find out what their reactions would be have always the most to say; but, I repeat, I was often sorry for the ‘bad’ women. They were young, their husbands were not fluent letter-writers – they started by not meaning any harm, just desiring a little change from the monotony of looking after their children, queueing for food and cleaning the house with no man to appreciate them or their cooking.

Another man would come along – perhaps an American or an R.A.F. pilot. Girls were very scarce in some parts of the country and who should blame a man who is cooped up to camp all day or risking his life over Germany for smiling at a pretty girl when’s he’s off duty? He is lonely, she is lonely, he smiles at her, she smiles back, and it’s an introduction. It is bad luck that she is married, but he means no harm nor does it cross her mind at first that she could ever be unfaithful to Bill overseas.

I am reminded of the comment of an older woman my mother used to work with at the doctors' surgery: “If only we’d had the pill during the war.”

Enough Barbara for tonight. More wit and wisdom from her another time.

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