books

Kathryn J. Atwood

Books: History | War | Distaff

Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (2014)

Women Heroes of World War I

I found this book extremely aggravating.

I picked it up to read because I was hoping to learn more about the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in WWI.

Since I had just finished No Man’s Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain’s Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I this book came up very short. The chapters here were very brief, often redundant, and the writing was choppy, as if a longer book had been chopped down or bits and pieces had been pulled into this book from somewhere else.

Pastor Le Seur then led her to the pole and waited while she was loosely tied and blindfolded. After a brief delay— another pastor was still speaking with Philippe— the firing squad took aim and shot the two people in front of them. Philippe Baucq and Edith Cavell were dead.

That’s pretty abrupt.

And the quotes felt excessively clumsy.

“The [German] people are fed full on the statement that Germany is the nation chosen by Gott [God] to rule the world.”

—Josephine Therese, young American woman in wartime Germany

I understand that this book is supposed to be accessible to those who know nothing about WWI, but the sidebars and asides into the causes of the war and other participants didn’t do much to help.

Married women were not allowed to have surgeries unless their husbands gave their official permission. They didn’t always give it. Some men would take their wives home from the hospital just as they were being prepared for serious and necessary operations, often giving no valid reason for their interference. These injustices fueled Elsie’s desire to work for women’s rights, and she became the honorary secretary of the Scottish Federation of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

This is true, but I’d rather have had more information about Elsie Inglis and what she did during the war rather than the reminder that women were still chattel (after all, we’ve already been reminded several times that women didn’t have the right to vote).

And what is put in and what was left out felt odd as well. We got a paragraph about women needing their husbands’ permission for surgery, but absolutely no mention of the Endell street hospital, which which just as extraordinary (if not more so).

On the plus side, there were plenty of references, which at least leads to me be able to learn more if I want.

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Rating: 4/10