Friday, 12 July 2013

Women in World War One

If you have been following this weblog, you will know that I began this as a tribute to the many women who did their bit in the Great War and because I felt there were more than enough books to commemorate male war poets.

I spent some time in our local library today, reading a book recommended by Michael Shankland of The Wilfred Owen Association Facebook Group - "The Red Sweet Wine of Youth  The Brave and Brief Lives of the War Poets' by Nicholas Murray (Little Brown, London, 2010).

Whilst the book is undoubtedly fascinating, in the final paragraph Mr Murray explains that he has not included any women poets because women did not fight during the First World War.  Hm.

Granted not many women fought but there were quite a few who did, as you will see if you look at the WW1 Buffs site on Facebook -

I did not find any mention on WW1 Buffs of Flora Sandes, a clergyman's daughter from Suffolk in England, who fought (and was wounded) for Serbia on the Eastern Front during WW1 - but then I have not had time to look at every single picture posted on this excellent commemorative Facebook page.

And what of the nurses who went to serve in Field Hospitals near the theatres of war? Though they may not have had rifles, they were frequently under fire and many died.   "Elsie and Mairie go to War Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front" by Diane Atkinson (Preface Publishing, London 2009) is one book that describes the hair-raising adventures of these two women who stayed to nurse the wounded of both sides for the duration of the War.

Women like Flora Sandes and Elsie and Mairie were the inspiration behind the subsection "Inspirational Women of World War One" which allows me to include one or two panels in my poetry exhibition that are not dedicated to poets - without, I trust, causing too much offence...  
Whether any of these women were moved to write poetry I have not yet been able to ascertain but there were several female poets who nursed near the Fronts - Vera Brittain is the most famous of these but there were others.

That attitude is exactly why I am researching women who wrote poetry during the First World War.  Having been researching almost daily now for just over a year, I am aware that finding every women who wrote poetry at that time may not be practical or possible.   Still - there is time over the coming years.  I find new information daily and Mother told me her Father did not return from the War until early in 1920.

I should like to thank Jackie Jones, Information Assistant at Mandelez Europe Services GmbH - UK Branch for her fantastic information regarding Elsie Mewis who I recently discovered.  Elsie worked at the Cadbury's Chocolate Factory in Bourneville from 1908 until 1943 and she wrote poetry.   Now all I have to do is find examples of Elsie's poems.



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