The contribution of nurses to attend to the wounded was essential to military care and recovery during the First World War. Less noted is the role of the middle class and educated, though largely unqualified, women who assisted in filling in the gaps at overburdened hospitals and convalescent homes as voluntary nurses. In this episode, guest host Kyle Pritchard sits down with Linda Quiney to discuss her research on the Canadian Voluntary Aid Detachment in her new book, This Small Army of Women. Women drawn to voluntary medical service sought a mixed sense of camaraderie, patriotism and adventure. Yet many experienced difficult and mundane work as a result of hostility from professional nurses and doctors who doubted their abilities. While some continued in emerging disciplines like physiotherapy and dietetics after they returned to Canada, others found it difficult to continue in the medical field. Whether they married or continued on in another career, Linda suggests that the majority of women went back to their lives with fond memories of their time in service.
Linda Quiney is a historian and serves as an affiliate with the Consortium for Nursing History Inquiry at the University of British Columbia. She is also the author of a number of articles and chapters on Canadian and Newfoundland women’s wartime voluntary work in support of the military medical services with the St. John Ambulance and Canadian Red Cross.
Ian Miller, Our Glory and Our Grief: Torontonians and the Great War. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.
Linda Quiney, This Small Army of Women. Vancouver: University of UBC Press, 2017.