Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Who pass this way down Whitehall…

August 28, 2009 · 3 Comments

   As we all stop by the World War II memorial  to capture the moment of our presence at this landmark, I notice a memorial representing  women who served in World War II and can not help but to think “Finally! A monument to show dedication of and to women.”  This thought crosses my mind because although England had many women in power and on throne, I have not seen many acknowledgments in our weeks of travel. This has led me to take numerous photos of the monument as well as complete more research. 


   Being in a country where white male domination occurred for centuries and being a Women’s and Gender Studies major I could not be more proud to have a bronze sculpture situated in Whitehall, London located in Parliament Square.  It was unveiled on July 9th, 2005 by Queen Elizabeth II and was named National Monument to the Women of World War II.  It was sculpted by John W. Mills and it stands at 22 feet high, 16 feet long, and 6 feet wide. The sculpture itself includes many details that one would not notice unless they move closer to the monument to observe it. There is lettering on the sides which replicates the typeface used on war time ration books. Also there are seventeen individual sets of clothing and uniforms depicting the ones worn at war and the jobs which women held throughout the years. Baroness Boothroyd, Former Speaker of the House of Commons and a person responsible for raising the funds for the monument stated: 

“I hope that future generations who pass this way down Whitehall will ask themselves what sort of women were they and look at history for the answer.”


   With a lot of positive responses regarding the dedication, there also came many negative comments. Many were outraged because the monument is dedicated specifically to women while there is no monument in existence dedicated to the men who served in the World Wars. Another interesting debate that occurred was regarding the patriarchal constructs and how sacrifices and male contributions to the war are automatically acknowledged over the women’s contributions. Therefore, a memorial dedicated specifically to women were constructed in order to remind those who pass down Whitehall.


   While reviewing the comments expressed by the British public, I am debating on how I feel about the monument. But I do have to say that no matter what the reasons were for the British government constructing this piece of art, I am happy. I do believe that there needs to be a reminder, especially in an area such as the Parliament Square, that women played a large part in not only supporting men but also taking over jobs that were required for survival men, women and children.  I would love to know what everyone thinks about the Monument. Whether it should be in existence, whether anyone else felt how big of a part it played in the Square, and whether it is fair to the men who served during the War.Women_of_World_War_II



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3 responses so far ↓

  •   russella // Aug 28th 2009 at 04:13

    Thanks so much for the extra information; your post got me thinking about our own many monuments and the gender divide. Up until very recently men were the only ones who actually did the fighting, so any war memorial would automatically be thought of as a male oriented one, but women played just as (if not a more important) role in the war effort and the stabilization of our nation during a chaotic time. I think for that reason, it makes perfect sense to have a distinctly female oriented one.

    You would probably know more about this than I, but I was under the impression that America did not have a WWII women’s memorial; is that the case?

  •   allisonmschell5 // Aug 28th 2009 at 11:08

    Jeyla, first of all I am so glad you did a blog post on this wonderful monument! There are too few women monuments in the world and I too was surprised and glad to see this monument here!

    I can’t believe this monument was only unveiled in 2005!! That almost over 50 years long due for all of the women who served during WWII. I thought it was interesting that the monument focuses on the 17 different jobs women “possibly” had. What about the women who were at home and did their part by rationing and sending out supplies to the men abroad…did they have anything acknowledging that on the monument? Great observations and research Jeyla.

    Andrew, I do not believe there is any such monument for women in the United States…disappointing…

  •   tejadaf // Aug 28th 2009 at 11:40

    Jeyla, I’m happy you wrote about this. I thought the monument was interesting myself and so I am happy to hear your thoughts on it. It’s always important to stop and think about the roles of those underrepresented in the history textbooks (such as women). Thank you for this post.

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