Scientific article

The American and Canadian wartime godmothers of Belgian soldiers. Joseph de Dorlodot's Correspondence and Documentation Office (1915-1919)

Published inMedicine, conflict and survival, vol. 36, no. 1, p. 82-102
Publication date2020

Lieutenant Joseph de Dorlodot (1871-1941), a Belgian aristocrat and philanthropist, was the Director of the Belgian Correspondence and Documentation Office in Folkestone, England. This article uses the 'Joseph de Dorlodot' archive collection (Archives Générales du Royaume de Belgique, Bruxelles) to investigate the emotional support provided by the Correspondence Office during the First World War. Throughout the conflict, its mission was to facilitate the sending of mail between Belgians, to provide them with legal advice and to offer humanitarian assistance to those who were in material and emotional distress. This was particularly the case of soldiers at the front. In the spring of 1916, the Office set up a mail system between Belgian soldiers and wartime godmothers - 'marraines' - from Canada and the USA. Lieutenant de Dorlodot imposed a precise moral and political framework for correspondence, where an intimate space was created in order to strengthen patriotic sentiment on the one hand, and control masculinities and femininities on the other. Through their letter exchanges with soldiers, godmothers participated in the war effort by bringing emotional reinforcement to the front line, from their homes, through a type of caring work often ignored or at least disconnected from any notion of work in the history of the Great War.

  • Belgium
  • Bureau de Correspondance et de Documentation
  • Gender history
  • History of emotions
  • Humanitarian relief
  • Marraines de guerre
  • Swiss National Science Foundation - 170484
Citation (ISO format)
LEYDER, Marie Marthe. The American and Canadian wartime godmothers of Belgian soldiers. Joseph de Dorlodot’s Correspondence and Documentation Office (1915-1919). In: Medicine, conflict and survival, 2020, vol. 36, n° 1, p. 82–102. doi: 10.1080/13623699.2020.1756193
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1362-3699

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