Tracking women’s post-war stories in Vienna
In May, EIRENE researcher Dagmar Wernitznig continued her hunt for archival treasures in Austria’s capital, Vienna. Undertaking research at several institutions, such as the Austrian National Library or the University of Vienna, home of the so-called Sammlung Frauennachlässe, she discovered a cornucopia of materials.
After 1918 and 1945 respectively, female citizens increasingly attempted to document their experiences, sometimes as a strategy of self-therapy or self-discovery during mostly bleak eras of post-conflict infrastructures. They talk about plain economic survival, their pride and joy of motherhood, and their sorrow about lost or missing loved ones. Dagmar also came across artistic interpretations of (para)military encounters after both world wars. Most strikingly, each individual woman understood that her files were significant, either for private or public reasons, and they preserved them accordingly. This indicated a decisive paradigm shift towards rendering their personal accounts and experiences as similarly pertinent like the narratives of males or their male spouses and relatives. Whereas previously female persons rather tended to collect and cherish correspondence and memoires of their husbands, sons, or fathers, the short 20th century evidenced an influx of testimonies and collections by and about women.