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The Mater Dolorosa On The Battlefield—Mourning Mothers In German Women’s Art Of The First World War

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Chapter Summary

A predominant theme in women’s art of the First World War is that of maternal sacrifice. Contemporary women’s literature, short stories and poetry also present the experience of mothers sacrificing their sons for the fatherland as the most important and drastic of women’s wartime experiences. The iconography in these images was employed to emphasize the mother’s loss rather than focusing on the fate of the soldier. The images offer an account of maternal sacrifice, enriched by written reflections in the diary of Kä the Kollwitz and the correspondence of Ida Dehmel, both of whom lost sons during the war. Between 1914 and 1918, soldiers’ mothers amounted to a substantial section of the female population, as almost 40% of German war deaths in these years were young men between the age of 20 and 24.

Keywords: First World War; German women's art; maternal sacrifice



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