Edith Cavell a British nurse during the First World War (1914-1918) was executed by the Germans in October 1915 in Brussels her place of residence at that time. Although she was unknown before her execution she became a useful symbol for the 'culturally mobilized' allies (and some neutral countries) in justifying the Great War. By depicting her as a young and innocent girl journalists and artists (amongst others) underlined the brutality of the act which according to them resulted from the 'immoral' German Kultur. At the same time Cavell was portrayed as a mature and determined woman who symbolized the courageous and enlightened western civilization (and the British nation in particular). In the post-war years Cavell's role in British society gradually changed. In remembering her the British still referred to her as a brave and mature woman but she ceased to be a symbol for women's contribution to the war effort. Contrary to this return to a more traditional vision of society some culturally demobilized groups emphasized her groundbreaking role as a pacifist or internationalist. Despite the international attempts at reconciliation after the Treaty of Locarno (1925) Cavell's execution remained a controversial subject as Herbert Wilcox's film dawn produced in 1928 also demonstrated. The most important shift in interpreting the First World War was the more humanized representation of the former enemy. Nonetheless the former allies still saw Cavell as a martyr and a heroine. 'The spirit of Locarno' was not able to conceal the practically irreconcilable cultural gap between the winners and the losers.

Additional Metadata
Publisher Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.18146/tmg.552
Journal Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis
Rights Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
Note TMG Journal for Media History; Vol 10, No 1 (2007); 23-52
Knijff, Christjan. (2007). Edith Cavell. De problematische representatie van een oorlogsheldin. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 10(1), 23–52. doi:10.18146/tmg.552