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The Story of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals

The sailors, soldiers, airmen and politicians about whom histories are written were male, and the first half of the twentieth century was still a time when a woman's place was thought to be in the home. Yet there were many women who contributed to the war effort between and as doctors and nurses. In Women in the War Zone, Anne Powell has selected extracts from first-hand accounts of the experiences of those female medical personnel who served abroad during the First World War.


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Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Description In our collective memory, the First World War is dominated by men. The sailors, soldiers, airmen and politicians about whom histories are written were male, and the first half of the twentieth century was still a time when a woman's place was thought to be in the home. Yet there were some women who contributed to the war effort between and as doctors and nurses.

American Nurses in World War I

Many soldiers also suffered from what doctors called trench foot. After they stood in water for weeks at a time, their socks would begin to grow to their feet. Women as well as men cared for the injured and ill. Thousands of women volunteered as nurses, and many worked at least a fourteen-hour day in the hospitals. They often had to come back on duty when hospital trains arrived with more wounded soldiers.

Nurses also served in evacuation hospitals only eight or ten miles behind the front lines and well within the range of German artillery. Wounded soldiers remarked that having female nurses as part of the medical staff was very important. Their skillful care saved many lives, and they reminded the injured of their mothers, wives, girlfriends, and sisters back home.

Women in the War Zone Hospital Service in the First World War

Military medicine had not changed much in the fifty years since the American Civil War. Battlefield doctors were slow to understand the link between exposure and the infections that set in quickly in dirty battlefield hospitals. As doctors became more aware of this link, they had to make sure that the wounded were brought to the operating table within twelve hours or the risk of infection greatly increased.

There was only salt water to rinse wounds, and there was no medication to stop infection once it had started. Thousands of men lost arms, legs, and even their lives. But advances in some medical techniques kept pace with the mass destruction of war. Doctors developed and practiced new ways to treat severe cases of tissue damage, burns, and contagious diseases. Blood transfusions were given under battlefield conditions. Doctors began using X-ray equipment to locate bullets and shrapnel during operations. The quality of American base hospitals increased as their medical staffs grew used to the rigors of the western front.

Even though medical staffs improved over time, the average soldier did not trust doctors. Marion Andrews of Winston-Salem got a piece of shrapnel in his leg when a wagon he was sleeping in was hit by a German shell. He refused to report to a field hospital, hoping that the wound was minor. After a week he found he had developed blood poisoning, and only then did he surrender to the treatment of doctors. When it became absolutely necessary, the United States developed a medical corps. At first its training and equipment was wholly lacking and it was ill-prepared to deal with war.

Women in the War Zone: Hospital Service in the First World War

But as Americans began to enter combat, the corps produced a workable medical system and actually made advances in the field of medicine. North Carolinians and the Great War. Department of Cultural Resources. Learn NC. NC Department of Cultural Resources.

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How did World War I change the way we treat injuries today? Birtish Library. Wounding in World War I. Medicine in the War Zone. Battlefield medicine: search results from WorldCat.