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NO MAN'S LAND by Wendy Moore


The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain’s Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I

by Wendy Moore

Pub Date: April 28th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5416-7272-7
Publisher: Basic Books

During World War I, women physicians saw an opportunity to aid the war effort and prove their professional worth.

Drawing on rich archival material, including letters and memoirs, London-based journalist Moore crafts a compelling history of the challenges faced by women doctors in the early years of the last century. The author focuses primarily on two indomitable women—surgeon Louisa Garrett Anderson and physician and anesthetist Flora Murray—who both had trained at the London School of Medicine for Women and who became lifelong companions. They, like their colleagues, faced widespread hostility; the British Medical Journal complained that the profession was being “besieged by fair invaders.” Nevertheless, determined to set up a hospital for wounded soldiers, the two women raised funds from friends, family, and fellow suffragettes, and many young women came forward eager to serve as doctors, nurses, and orderlies. First establishing a hospital in France, soon their success came to the attention of the British War Office, which invited them to run a 1,000-bed military hospital in a former workhouse on Endell Street in London. Unlike any other British Army hospital, Moore writes, “it would be run solely by women, with an almost entirely female staff.” The author's chronicle of the Endell Street hospital highlights the barbarity of the war: In its four and a half years of existence, the hospital treated tens of thousands of patients and performed more than 7,000 surgeries, treating injuries—such as wounds from powerful artillery and high-explosive shells and the horrific effects of chlorine gas—that many physicians had never before seen. Its reputation was stellar despite incredulous reports about a hospital run by “mere women.” Many medical schools, facing a dearth of male students, at last opened their doors to women. After the war, though, “women doctors were sidelined again into low-status, low paid jobs” in maternity, child care, asylums, and workhouse infirmaries, and medical schools again barred women; “peace had seemingly brought their value to an end.”

An absorbing history of courage and carnage.