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Voices of the German Revolution 1918-1919

Event date Event time Event location
15/03/2018 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm The Peace Museum, Bradford

About the Kiel Uprising: Women's activism and the German Revolution November 1918

This project challenges the current historical perception of revolutions as male spaces and the German revolution of 1918/19 as a male affair. Professor Ingrid Sharp and Dr Corinne Painter, University of Leeds, are working with Bradford-based Theatre Company called Bent Architect and the Peace Museum on a project to write women back into the German revolution of 1918 that brought the First World War to an end.

Professor Ingrid Sharp and Dr Corinne Painter
Professor Ingrid Sharp and Dr Corinne Painter. Copyright: University of Leeds

The AHRC-funded project will use archival research by Professor Sharp and Dr Painter to create an exhibition at The Peace Museum and a new play scheduled to tour the UK and Germany in 2018. The play and the exhibition will provide a chance to reflect on the end of the First World War, what peace truly meant, and how the interwar period was shaped, which are not widely understood in the UK. They will also enable audiences to consider the historical narrative; whose stories do we tell, why do we tell them, and what happens if we include the voices of those who have been traditionally overlooked or marginalised?

By the autumn of 1918, the German population was weary of war after enduring four years of intense deprivation due to the allied blockade preventing food and raw materials reaching Germany. Strikes, riots and civil unrest had become increasingly common as more and more people wanted an end to the war and a change in the state institutions that had failed to provide for them. Although sparked by the naval uprising in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, which occurred between 30 October and 4 November, the German revolution spread rapidly, engulfing cities and reaching Munich by 7 November. With the majority of men in the armed forces, women were key players in this unrest as they were most directly affected by the food shortages, long working hours and harsh living conditions.

Women in Aktion
Copyright: The Peace Musuem

Apart from Rosa Luxemburg, the historical figures that have emerged as revolutionary leaders were generally male. But there are also accounts by women in which they present themselves as active participants in the revolutionary events with clear goals for the new social order that it would bring in: these women certainly did not see themselves as onlookers to a male spectacle. For many socialist, pacifist or feminist women the revolution was seen as a chance to realise long-term political or social goals. So far, the research has identified over 100 women who were involved in the revolution as members of the soldiers’ and workers’ councils or leaders of the Council Republic in Munich. They were involved at every level of the revolution; from the leadership to distributing pamphlets or procuring weapons. While women by no means made up the majority of revolutionaries, to continue to ignore their role is to continue to misunderstand and misrepresent this historical turning point.

Professor Sharp, Dr Painter and Bent Architect visited the key towns and cities of the revolution, beginning in Kiel and travelling to Wilhelmshaven, Bremen and Hamburg. They found that women were hardly represented in the exhibitions commemorating the events and they will write women back into history during 2018 through talks, an exhibition and publications and of course the play, Women of Aktion.

For further information visit the Peace Museum event web page.

How to attend the lecture

Please call 01274 780 241 or email info@peacemuseum.org.uk.

About the Ending War, Imagining Peace: Germany 1918 exhibition

This temporary exhibition opens at The Peace Museum: 1 March - 29 March 2018.

What did these German women do during the revolution and after the war? What kind of peace did they want? How different was that from the kind of peace that the men at Versailles imposed in 1919?

This exhibition asks these questions and more. It gives us a new way to see the past, and maybe a better way to build the future.

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