Women and World War 1

Nurses Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, Front cover, Home Chat, 13 April 1918.
Nurses Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, Front cover, ‘Home Chat’, 13 April 1918.

Women played a significant role in World War I, both at home and abroad, and there are a number of publications that provide further details on their contribution. Neil R. Storey and Molly Housego have co-authored ‘Women in the First World War’, Oxford, 2011, which includes chapters on their jobs in the military, in the medical services and on the land, with plenty of photographs and war posters. Susan R. Grayzel has also published the similarly titled ‘Women and the First World War’, London, 2002, but this book has a more academic bias and also discusses anti-war activity, sexuality and morality and the post-war effects on women.

‘Women Workers in the First World War’ by Gail Braybon, London, 1989, is another academic study that analyses the role women had in the workforce before, during and after the war. A more colourful volume is Diana Condell and Jean Liddiard’s ‘Working for Victory? Images of Women in the First World War 1914-18′, London, 1987, which consists mainly of black and white photographs of women working in different jobs during wartime.

For those interested in women in the medical services, Anne Powell’s ‘Women in the War Zone: Hospital Service in the First World War’, Stroud, 2009 focusses on personal recollections of female doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers who served overseas. A more secretive job for women is discussed in Tammy M. Proctor’s ‘Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War’, London, 2003, which uses personal accounts and diaries, official publications and newspaper reports to throw some light on this most unusual job.

Finally, the library holds the manuscript archive, including the photograph albums, of the Scottish nurse, Mairi Chisholm, who served in Belgium during 1914-18. You can find more information on her on the library’s Experiences of the Great War website.