‘Hunnish scenes’ and a ‘Virgin birth’
The contested marriage and motherhood of a curious modern woman
in Modern women on trial
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The frequent references to the war illustrate how the war still shadowed and informed explanations of behaviour, especially those of women. In the 1920s, the athletic woman was being celebrated in the press as a symbol of modernity, although there were always counter voices warning of the threat to motherhood of active sport. John Russell's masculinity was implicitly undermined by the constant references to his and his wife's sexual relations, which were referred to variously in the press as incomplete relations, attempted relations, partial intercourse, or 'Hunnish scenes'. Christabel Russell, in presenting herself as simultaneously non-sexual, maternal and modern complicated the accepted narrative of the 1920s modern woman. Pregnancy had initially been Christabel's downfall; her embrace of motherhood was central to her redemption. Christabel wrote the screenplay for a film called Afraid of Love, which she claimed was based on her own experience of married life.

Modern women on trial

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