I recently heard a story about an elderly lady living in a rest home who had played a significant role during the First World War. She had lived in the rest home for some five years or so and no one had a clue of her incredible background. This got me thinking about how many untold stories there must be of women who contributed in so many ways to the war effort.
On research I have found that there is little written about the efforts of women, yet they had their own challenges and hardships.
One book I discovered, Women in Wartime: New Zealand Women Tell Their Story edited by Lauris Edmond, reports many personal accounts of women during both the first and second world wars. This quote from the book, from the story “A Memory from Poukawa”, is a fine example of the struggles of a mother during the First World War.
Mother, although barely fifty years old, was a grey-haired, worn out old lady striving to manage on our meagre income… with a large house to care for and numerous farm chores to attend to, because farm labourers were not to be found, she must have, with her indifferent health, worked to the limit of her endurance.
And from “Post Office, Tokomaru Bay”:
…women were doing men’s work on the farms. others were driving the buggies and wagonettes to meet the passengers off the steamers… The women handled great baskets of mail… sewed for the hospital ships and packed parcels for prisoners-of-war.
The Other Anzacs: Nurses at War, 1914-1918 by Peter Rees is a must read also.
Over 600 nurses served in the New Zealand Army Nurses and many others for the Red Cross. Many received medals and awards.
The book has many extraordinary stories and tells of sacrifices, dedication, and sadness. However, I felt it also uplifting in the description of how the nurses comforted injured soldiers, who they describe as “their boys”. This book is a thoughtful read and is available in hard copy as well as well as an eBook.
Have you read any books about women’s role in wartime?