The best books on women’s experiences in WW1

Wendy Moore Author Of No Man's Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I
By Wendy Moore

Who am I?

Wendy Moore is a journalist and author of five non-fiction books on medical and social history. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, Times, Observer and Lancet. Her new book is about Endell Street Military Hospital which was run and staffed by women in London in the First World War.


I wrote...

Book cover of No Man's Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I

What is my book about?

No Man’s Land tells the story of the pioneering women who set up and ran a major military hospital in the heart of London in the First World War. Apart from a handful of men Endell Street Military Hospital was entirely staffed by women. The staff treated 24,000 men sent back from the frontline and when war ended the hospital stayed open to care for the victims of the Spanish flu pandemic. I wrote it to give voice to the women who worked there and the men who were treated there.

The books I picked & why

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Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain,

Book cover of Testament of Youth

Why this book?

It would be impossible to list books about women in the First World War without putting Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the top. More than any other writer, her memoir captures the experience of the generation who lived through that war. Brittain was 20, about to study at Oxford, when war broke out. She gave up her plans to nurse the wounded in London and France. She lost her fiancé, her brother and two close friends to the war and it changed her forever. “The world was mad and we were all victims,” she wrote. Peace brought little solace as she remembered those who had died or lost their loved ones. “The War was over; a new age was beginning; but the dead were dead and would never return.” She became a pacifist, a socialist and a feminist.

Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Testament of Youth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An autobiographical account of a young nurse's involvement in World War I.


Women as Army Surgeons: Being The History Of The Women's Hospital Corps 1914-1919

By Flora Murray,

Book cover of Women as Army Surgeons: Being The History Of The Women's Hospital Corps 1914-1919

Why this book?

Murray’s book was the inspiration, guide and companion for my own. Flora Murray and her life-long partner Louisa Garrett Anderson were both doctors and suffragettes. Murray was honorary doctor to the suffragette movement and Anderson went to prison for four weeks for smashing a window. As women doctors they were confined to treating only women and children. They seized the war as a chance not only to do their bit but to prove women doctors were equal to their male counterparts. They ran two hospitals in France before setting up Endell Street in 1915. Murray wrote her book, first published in 1920, as testament to the achievements of all the women involved. Her account is bracing – in the manner of the wartime “Blighty spirit” – but packed with fascinating detail and heroic acts.

Women as Army Surgeons: Being The History Of The Women's Hospital Corps 1914-1919

By Flora Murray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women as Army Surgeons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Flora Murray's book is a record of the Women's Hospital Corps in France and the Endell Street Military Hospital, London. Despite a lack of training in trauma and orthopaedics, and with no previous experience in military medicine, she met the challenge of treating often horrific wartime casualties and returning battle-injured men to society. She, along with her partner Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson, redefined gender roles in military medicine.


Elsie and Mairi Go to War

By Diane Atkinson,

Book cover of Elsie and Mairi Go to War

Why this book?

Atkinson’s book tells the story of Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm who were friends and motorcycle enthusiasts. When war broke out they joined a voluntary medical unit heading for France and set up a first aid post near the frontline. They were fearless, sometimes reckless, and always cheerful as they saved the wounded. I loved the way Atkinson’s book captured their youthful exuberance and gung-ho courage.

Elsie and Mairi Go to War

By Diane Atkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Elsie and Mairi Go to War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When they met at a motorcycle club in 1912, Elsie Knocker was a thirty year-old motorcycling divorcee dressed in bottle-green Dunhill leathers, and Mairi Chisholm was a brilliant eighteen-year old mechanic, living at home and borrowing tools from her brother. Little did they know, theirs was to become one of the most extraordinary stories of the First World War.

In 1914, they roared off to London 'to do their bit', and within a month they were in the thick of things in Belgium driving ambulances to distant military hospitals. Frustrated by the number of men dying of shock in the…


Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War

By Elisabeth Shipton,

Book cover of Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War

Why this book?

Shipton’s book is a brilliantly researched account of the thousands of incredible women who refused to sit at home knitting socks when war began. Using diaries, letters and memoirs, she tells the story of the women who put on uniforms of various hues to drive ambulances, carry stretchers, nurse the wounded and even to bear arms close to the frontlines of World War One. They included the wonderful Flora Sandes who went to Serbia to nurse casualties and ended up joining the Serbian Army. It’s a testimony to women’s bravery, daring and refusal to take no for an answer.

Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War

By Elisabeth Shipton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Female Tommies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The First World War saw one of the biggest ever changes in the demographics of warfare, as thousands of women donned uniforms and took an active part in conflict for the first time in history. Female Tommies looks at the military role of women worldwide during the Great War and reveals the extraordinary women who served on the frontline.

Through their diaries, letters and memoirs, meet the women who defied convention and followed their convictions to defend the less fortunate and fight for their country. Follow British Flora Sandes as she joins the Serbian Army and takes up a place…


Between the Lines: Diaries and Letters from Elsie Inglis's Russian Unit

By Audrey Fawcett Cahill,

Book cover of Between the Lines: Diaries and Letters from Elsie Inglis's Russian Unit

Why this book?

History is just “one damned thing after another” is a common phrase. For me this is the book which has led me to my next project. Cahill traces the story of the women who went to Russia in 1916 with the voluntary outfit the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. Set up by a Scottish surgeon, Elsie Inglis, the SWH became the biggest women’s medical organisation serving abroad in the war. The SWH women ran hospitals in France, Serbia and Russia. Here Cahill tells the story of their astonishing adventures in Russia – driving ambulances close to the firing line, retreating with the Serbian and Russian armies, surviving the cold, food shortages and the Russian Revolution – through the women’s own words. It’s staggering stuff – and great material for my next book about one of those incredible women pioneers.

Between the Lines: Diaries and Letters from Elsie Inglis's Russian Unit

By Audrey Fawcett Cahill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between the Lines as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shipped from UK, please allow 10 to 21 business days for arrival. First Published by PENTLAND, EDINBURGH, 1999 BETWEEN THE LINES: Letters and Diaries from Elsie Inglis's Russian Unit. Arranged and edited by Audrey Fawcett Cahill. 372 p., ill., maps A very good, near fine soft-cover copy.


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