Senior Award Winner
During the Second World War, women’s branches of the British military were established in India and the Middle East. Both English and local women were employed in “auxiliary” duties ranging from clerical to medical. Drawing on archival sources housed in British archives, this thesis investigates how the establishment, experience, representation, and memory of the overseas women’s services shed light on the continuous and ongoing negotiation of British imperial power. It argues that the formation of the overseas women’s services was defined by attempts to maintain imperial power dynamics in India and the Middle East. The services sought to recreate women—both British and local—as imperial subjects; however, servicewomen often resisted the exertion of imperial power. By the end of the war, local recruitment had evolved into a propagandistic reaction to rising anti-colonial tensions in India and with the Jewish community in Palestine. This thesis concludes that “imperial inclusion” as manifested in the overseas women’s services relied on simultaneous othering, tokenization, and erasure—the vestiges of which survive in postcolonial discourse and memory.
Keywords: India, Palestine, Egypt, Second World War, Women, Military, British Empire, Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), Women’s Auxiliary Corps (India) (WAC(I))
McDonald, Natalie, "Engendering Empire: The British Women's Military Services in India and the Middle East, 1939-1945" (2019). 2019 Claremont Colleges Library Undergraduate Research Award. 3.