Wonder Woman in WWI

I didn’t jump at John’s suggestion that we go to the new Wonder Woman movie, I didn’t know anything about it and he didn’t either, but I reluctantly agreed. A woman superhero sounded a lot better than most every other movie out there. Had I known that the setting was WWI, I would have been chomping at the bit and leading him to see it.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised all the way round with the movie. Yes, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is drop-dead gorgeous and wears a cheesy outfit, but come on, she’s the Queen of the Amazons. I liked her character though, and Gadot did a  great job making the Amazon Queen naive/tough/caring all at the same time. It took me a minute to recognize her love interest, Chris Pine (the new young Captain Kirk), but his character was also well done. I have to like the characters (and the actors playing them), or I generally don’t like the movie.

But on to the WWI stuff. Overall, I thought they did a good job with that as well. The focus on the chemistry and the poison gas was a nice touch. It really was one of the legacies of WWI and continues today, both against people (as in recent gas attacks against civilians in Syria) and the continual assault against insects and plants (as in pesticides) which started in a big way after WWI. World War I was often called the chemist’s war which I wrote about in a previous blog. And although at first the movie portrayed the Germans as the really bad “guys” in the war, I think they rectified some of that in the end.

Now, some people may have been confused by the American Indian named Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) who shows up as a supporting character in the movie. American Indians did fight with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in WWI (as well as in Canadian forces) although not as many served during WWI as in WWII. The original code talkers started during WWI.

I have another theory of how Chief came to be there. In 1914, a Wild West show was touring Europe. The Wild West shows were really popular both in the U.S. and Europe starting in the late 1800s with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. The Indians in the shows were American Indians from a number of different tribes. When the war broke out, this particular Wild West show was trapped in Berlin and not allowed to leave. The Iroquois Nation declared war on Germany because of both the ill treatment of their stranded members in the Wild West show and because of the drafting of Iroquois men into the U.S. Army. I thought I read somewhere that since the Iroquois never had a truce with Germany, they were technically still at war, but I couldn’t find that “fact” again, so it could be an alt-fact.

Anyway, the Chief made perfect sense to me, although once I suspended disbelief in an Amazon Queen fighting in the trenches on the Western Front during WWI with god powers, it was really really easy to believe in an American Indian being there as well.

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Women’s Suffrage

suffragettes

1913, Liberty and her attendants in front of the Treasury Building.

As I was driving down to Montpelier (our state capitol) yesterday to join the Women’s March, I couldn’t help but think about all those determined and courageous suffragettes who in the 19th and early 20th century marched and protested and worked so hard to get the vote for women. Not just in this country but around the world. The passage of the U.S. 19th Amendment in 1920 guaranteed all women the right to vote. Previously, it was on a state by state basis with some states granting voting rights and others partial voting rights and some not at all. New Zealand (1893) and Australia (1902) were two of the first countries to give voting rights to women. And of course, there are still many places around the world today where women are not full voting citizens.

U.S. women had been working since the mid 1800s (and earlier) for the right to vote.  They had Women’s Conventions, plays, pamphlets, marches, and more. They filed lawsuits, crashed inauguration events, went to jail, and went on hunger strikes to name just a few things. They were uppity! And it wasn’t just voting rights women were working for. Plenty of the things we take for granted now  had to be fought for, like property rights for women, rights to their own earnings, divorce rights, educational rights and opportunities, and the list goes on. In fact, it wasn’t until 1972 (when I was in 9th grade) that Title IX was passed. (“Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.”) One of the things this mandated was equal opportunities in terms of team and after school team sports for girls. Up until then our opportunities had been gymnastics and cheer leading. Or in other words, not a whole lot of opportunity.

By the early 20th century, women’s suffrage was gaining even greater strength, but World War I probably delayed its passing in many countries. The lack of male workers, also meant that women were taking on the roles of men in the factories, the farms, and just about everywhere so their activist efforts may have decreased then too. Women filling in for the men probably positively influenced many people’s minds about allowing full citizenship to women. Many countries granted women’s suffrage right after WWI.

Me at the Montpelier Women's March

Me at the Montpelier Women’s March.

All this and more I was thinking about as I sat for 40 minutes barely moving on the interstate trying to get off the Montpelier exit. The state police ended up closing that exit so I was glad I made it through. Many people didn’t get there until the very end of the rally, while others had to turn around and go home. They estimated about 15,000 women, men and children showed up. This in a city that has a population of about 8,000. Phew!!

I was impressed by how polite and peaceable everyone was, but that’s not surprising considering it was Vermont. Yet it also seemed the case at the other women’s marches all over the country and the world yesterday.  And so many young women there too. I was glad to be a part of it.