This is a guest post by Alison Gilbey, one of IHR Digital’s summer interns from the University of Leicester.
During the years of the First World War, the decline in moral behaviour among young women, particularly those of the working class, was a cause of concern for many. This spread of looser behaviour, termed khaki fever after the way it seemingly followed men in uniform, merited much investigation. In this seminar, Alex Rock, drawing on ideas from Angela Woollacott, discusses an example of such investigation in one cinema in particular; the Finsbury Park Rink cinema. By considering the methods used to carry out this investigation we can gain an idea of what this indicated towards society as a whole. The focus on the cinema was between the years of 1913-19.
The main issues behind the investigation are regarding society as a whole, rather than this one particular place. Issues highlighted include the introduction of women patrols; middle class women who were taken on to “police” areas where loose behaviour may take place, arguably seen as a way of imposing middle class values on the working class women. These can be seen to be linked into the wider issues in society at the time, notably with the push towards women’s suffrage, the traditional image of women as passive creatures was being shaken off during this period. As well as this, the impact of modern culture on British morality was called into question. The focus on the cinema here highlights this, showing distrust in British society with the new “immoral” public spaces being introduced. Finally, this seminar discusses the corruption in the police force at the time and the blind eye that could be turned towards behaviour for a price.
By considering this period of time and the events and concerns of this cinema, we are shown that there was a lot more to this topic than concern over the behaviour of a few “immoral” young ladies.