White feathers and wounded men: Female patriotism and the memory of the Great-War

Academic Article


  • On August 30, 1914, Admiral Charles Penrose Fitzgerald, an inveterate conscriptionist and disciple of Lord Roberts, deputized thirty women in Folkstone to hand out white feathers to men not in uniform. The purpose of this gesture was to shame “every young ‘slacker’ found loafing about the Leas” and to remind those “deaf or indifferent to their country's need” that “British soldiers are fighting and dying across the channel.” Fitzgerald's estimation of the power of these women was enormous. He warned the men of Folkstone that “there is a danger awaiting them far more terrible than anything they can meet in battle,” for if they were found “idling and loafing to-morrow” they would be publicly humiliated by a lady with a white feather.The idea of a paramilitary band of women known as “The Order of the White Feather” or “The White Feather Brigade” captured the imagination of numerous observers and even enjoyed a moment of semiofficial sanction at the beginning of the war. According to the Chatham News an “amusing, novel, and forceful method of obtaining recruits for Lord Kitchener's Army was demonstrated at Deal on Tuesday” when the town crier paraded the streets and “crying with the dignity of his ancient calling, gave forth the startling announcement: ‘Oyez! Oyez!! Oyez!!! The White Feather Brigade! Ladies wanted to present the young men of Deal and Walmer … the Order of the White Feather for shirking their duty in not coming forward to uphold the Union Jack of Old England! God save the King.’”
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • April 1997
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In


  • 1900-1999
  • The Four Feathers(1902)
  • English literature
  • Mason, A. E. W.(1865-1948)
  • World War I
  • cowardice
  • effeminacy
  • feminism
  • novel
  • romantic love
  • women soldiers
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 178
  • End Page

  • 206
  • Volume

  • 36
  • Issue

  • 2