Thursday 25 June 2015

Marjorie Kane Smyth (1888 - 1974) - Australian Writer and WW1 VAD, Artist, Poet, Architect, Designer

I am indebted to Viv Newman who contacted me recently.  Viv is a writer who is currently researching First World War poetry.   She pointed out to me that Marjorie Kane Smyth who I had included in my List of Female Poets of the First World War under 'Britain' was in fact Australian.

Catherine Reilly ("Scars upon my heart") and Nosheen Khan ("Women's Poetry of the First World War" - for reference to both anthologies please see my Bibliography) did the most wonderful ground work for those of us wanting to find out more about women who wrote poetry during the First World War.  Neither Reilly nor Khan had the resources we have today so they are to be applauded.

I will now make sure Marjorie is in the correct place on the list.

Viv says:

"Marjorie Kane Smyth d.1936(?)
Australian, lived in New South Wales; father may have been a clergyman because in 1904 she passed Junior examinations at the Clergy Daughters’ School.  She was one of the early Australians to volunteer as a VAD (St. John's Ambulance Brigade), arriving in Egypt on 12 October 1915 …  She worked at No. 1 Australian General Hospital, ‘Heliopolis Palace’ a huge complex which according to the Hospital’s own records was in ‘the land of the Pharaohs’ as a 750 bed hospital (increasing to 1040 on arrival in France) from January 1915 to March 1916 . In Egypt the hopsital cared for patients from Gallipoli and then transferred to France.  Marjorie served with this hospital, attached to the QAIMNS, until June 1917.  She was awarded the 1914-1915 Star as well as the War and Victory medal."

According to other sources (see below), Marjorie was born in St. Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria.  Her husband was killed during the First World War and her date of death was 1974.  She was a modernist painter and her work was exhibited in the 1920s and 1930s in Sydney.

Many thanks indeed Viv Newman - Historian and Author of "We also served:  The Forgotten Women of the First World War and "Nursing through Shot and Shell:  A GReat War Nurse's Diary" -

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Female Poets who were VADs, nurses, ambulance drivers, etc. during The First World War

Regular followers of this weblog (which is an add on to the Commemorative Exhibition Project) will know that I have been researching female poets who were VADs, nurses, ambulance drivers and so on during the First World War.

If anyone knows of any who are not yet on this list please get in touch.  Many thanks.



Edith Bagnold (Great-grandmother to Samantha Cameron wife of the current British Prime Minister)
Maud Anna Bell
Beatrix Brice Miller - went to France as a Lady Helper with her mother who was a trained nurse
Vera Brittain
May Wedderburn Cannan (VAD - Rouen, France 1915 and Paris in 1918)
Agatha Christie - VAD in Devon
Jessica Stewart Dismorr (1885 - 1939) - Artist who nursed in France in WW1
Eva Dobell
Lady Helena Emily Gleichen (1873 - 1947) - Artist. Radiographer during WW1
Rosaleen Louise Graves (1894 – 1989) – poet, WW1 VAD nurse joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment on 17th September 1915; after initial training in Chislehurst and London sent to No. 54 General Hospital, Wimereux, France on 23rd November 1917; served in France until 14th March 1919.
I. Grindley
Cicely Hamilton - Royaumont - administrator; actress, poet, writer
Winifred Holtby - drove ambulances in France
Violet Jessop
Winifred Mabel Letts - served with the Almeric Paget team of physiotherapists
Nina Mardel
Naomi Mitchison - Scottish
Carola Oman
Jessie Pope - was a volunteer at St. Dunstan's home for the Blind during WW1
Olivia Robertson
May Sinclair (Travelled to France with Dr. H. Monro in August 1914, May had to return to England after six weeks due to shell shock)
Freya Stark 
Millicent Sutherland - funded a hospital - her work was painted by the French artist Victor Tardieu
Joan Thompson
Evelyn Underhill (I am not sure if she nursed but she did work for the SSAFA - Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force Association)
Alberta Vickridge
M. Winifred Wedgwood


Mary Borden set up and funded a medical team and went to France 1915 - 1918
Amelia Earhart - trained as a VAD assistant in Canada 1917 - 1918
Margaret Helen Florine RN (1879 - 1949) – American poet and nurse in WW1
Mary H.J. Henderson lived in England and went with Elsa Inglis to Russia and Serbia to nurse
Elizabeth Nourse (1859 - 1938) ARTIST - worked in France helping refugees WW1
Marie Van Vorst
Edith Wharton
Ella Wheeler Wilcox - went to France in 1918 to read poetry and lecture to the troops

Grace Ellery Channing went as a War Correspondent


Iso (Isobel) Rae (1860 - 1940) Artist - joined the VAD in London WW1 - Etaples Base Camp
Marjorie Kane Smyth (1888 - 1974) - VAD with St. John's Ambulance Brigade Egypt and France
Jessie Traill (1891 - 1967) Artist - joined the VAD in London WW1 worked in hospitals in England and France


Stephanie HOLLENSTEIN - Artist who nursed, became a soldier, then a war artist in WW1


Henriette HARDENBERG - poet and nurse


Elizabeta POLONSKAYA - poet and doctor


Emine SEMIYE ONASY (1864 – 1944) – writer/nurse

Don't forget - Event at the Royal College of Nursing, 3rd July 2015 - Women's Poetry in the Great War


The Royal College of Nursing is hosting an event on 3rd July 2015 entitled ‘Women’s Poetry in the Great War: Poetry and Music’.   Featured will be British poet/nurse Audrey Ardern along with musicians Lucas Jordan on flute and Fabricio Mattos on guitar.

Poetry and music followed by a drinks reception.  Tickets are £15 and can be ordered from

The Royal College of Nursing, Cavendish Square, London W1G 0RN