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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Expectations of women who volunteered for nursing soldiers abroad

An American nurse on the front lines.
Most nurses who volunteered to serve during the First World War had experience serving Stateside in hospitals, local sanitariums for tubercular patients or in private homes. They served in various capacities—on wards, in maternity units and in private duty to wealthier patients who had the funds to engage a private nurse for home duty.
While a few had specialties, as we now think of them, most engaged in general duty.
Before going abroad, very few nurses ever saw the types of wounds, disease or shell shock that men incurred from living and fighting in trenches, or from shrapnel fragments or the newest inventions of warfare--tanks and machine guns.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How women joined the World War One nursing effort

Nurses marching together during training.
When Congress declared war in April 1917, the United States had no sizable standing army. While volunteers were accepted, most men joined the military via a new draft.
To fulfill the need for a medical contingent, military officials knew they would need a huge number of doctors and nurses.
Many hospital staffs responded by forming their own volunteer groups. Without depriving the home front of medical personnel, these professionals called for their own in-house staffs to volunteer to serve abroad.
Among those who volunteered were nurses, many of them newly graduated from in-house hospital training schools.
Here, above, we see them marching together in their day uniforms.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Women's heroism, A story never before told

Army Nurse in Ward Uniform.
More than three decades ago when I first began to write fiction, I became enamored of a story I yearned to tell about a young American woman who broke all conventions to answer the call for nurses to save the wounded and sick soldiers fighting in the Great War.
Living in Washington D.C., with one husband and three young children, plus working nine to five (or more) on Capitol Hill, I wrote my novel riding on the Metro as I went to and from work. I wrote on Saturday mornings, before carpools for soccer and ballet. I finished it. Gave it to my critique group to help me tear apart and put back together again.  I sent it out to editors in New York.
And I almost sold it.
But no one wanted to buy it.
"Too depressing," said so many editors who nonetheless loved the prose and theme. "World War One is not up-lifting."
I kept my research. My note cards and xerox copies of pictures. My interviews with museum directors. And over the years, I did more research.  Traditional publishers might not wish to buy such a story about a "depressing" subject, but I adored the concept and kept reading and thinking about my interpretation of an American woman's experience on the front lines.
Today, I am astonished at how much more primary documentation is available.
And so at the urging of my husband, who is a proud veteran of the First Army (or the Big Red One, as it came to be called during World War One) and at the insistence of many of my family who read the manuscript then and love it still, plus my former critique partners who loved the book, I will bring HEROIC MEASURES (much edited) to the reading public.
What you will read here will not be that tale.
But what you can read here will be similar stories, all of the heroism of women who served when it was not fashionable, socially acceptable, financially rewarding, career-enhancing, nor even wise.
I hope you will return!