The Best Books On Women’s Experiences In WW1

By Wendy Moore

The Books I Picked & Why

Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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

By Flora Murray

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Elsie and Mairi Go to War

By Diane Atkinson

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War

By Elisabeth Shipton

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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

By Audrey Fawcett Cahill

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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists