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This chapter uses a selection of wartime love letters between soldiers and their wives/girlfriends to make two arguments. It shows how the world that couples constructed for themselves through the conventions of exchanging love letters was subject to many outside influences. It considers among others the case of a young woman who corresponded with multiple soldier penfriends, doubtless motivated by her own quest for pleasure and attention but also encouraged by regime messages to young women on the home front urging them to send ‘love tokens’ to unattached men at the front. Overall, however, the chapter makes the case that intimate correspondence between home and front, particularly where it evoked sexual feelings, could for all its conventional qualities constitute a refuge for individuals from the anxieties caused by the war and the dangers faced by front-line soldiers and civilians on the home front.
For contemporaries, the emergence of the New Woman was one of the most striking and challenging features of Weimar society. Contemporary discussion was set alight by the provocative behaviour and dress of a new generation of young women who seemed determined to break with established norms. For some observers, the New Woman's defining characteristic was the abandonment of motherhood. Many conservatives argued that because of the New Woman's fecklessness and irresponsibility the family was in crisis, moral depravity on the increase and society suffering from the effects of husbands and wives both going out to work. Others were conscious rather of a new female style. For them the quintessential New Woman was a pleasure-seeking glamour girl, dressed in short skirt or even in trousers, hair worn bobbed in a Bubikopf, wearing make up and smoking cigarettes.
Historians have been divided on how to treat the phenomenon. For a while, there was a tendency to argue that there never really had been a New Woman. The conservatives' dismay was seen as exaggerated propaganda, stoking up public fears in order to defend reactionary viewpoints. Similarly, the image of the glamour girl was dismissed as media hype. Fashion changes there may have been, but they applied only to a small section of the urban population and certainly had little to do with a wider emancipation or change of values. Finally, it was argued, the suggestion that there was a new emancipated generation of young women ignored the persistent high levels of gender inequality; old assumptions and gender roles remained predominant. More recently, however, historians of Weimar have acknowledged the very real changes to women's social position.