Currently reading 'The Second Sexism', the important new men's rights book that uses philosophical analysis to argue that males are experiencing disadvantages in society that are the result of sexism. I'll write a review sometime soon, but the couple of chapters I've read thus far have left me impressed. Here, the author David Benatar is discussing the discriminatory pressure on males to enlist and fight in war :
One particularly graphic example of this is the campaign, during the First World War, of British women distributing white feathers - a symbol of cowardice - to young men who were not in uniform. These were distributed even to adolescent boys who were technically too young to register. One boy, Frederick Broome, who had succeeded in enlisting at age 15, fought in battle, was returned to England in a febrile state and then discharged at the insistence of his father, who produced his birth certificate to convince the authorities. Then, while walking over a bridge in town, then age 16, young Frederick was accosted by four girls who gave him three white feathers. He later recalled as follows :
"I felt very humiliated. I finished the walk over the bridge and there on the other side was the Thirty-seventh London Territorial Association of the Royal Field Artillery. I walked straight in and re-joined the army."
Note that I have not sought the author's permission to quote the above passage - I assume he will have no objections to me highlighting a small sample of his work on a men's rights advocacy site.
The quoted quote from the boy soldier is taken from (according to the author's notes) 'We Will Not Fight', by Will Ellsworth-Jones.
In the notes section, David Benatar also reveals that the feminist icon Virginia Wooff dismissed, against all the evidence, the claim that white feathers were handed out during World War I in any great numbers. She apparently attributed the belief to 'male hysteria'.
You can read an interview with David Benatar on the subject of his book here in the Pink Paper.
**UPDATE : I have added a follow-up to this article which deals with the historical relationship between feminism and the white feather campaigns, something which redditors seem to be having a hard time believing :