Nurses In War

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During World War I, nurses were recruited from both those already in the nursing profession as well as civilian workers and served as an essential part of the Imperial Forces. Many women volunteered to join the VAD 's (Voluntary Aid Detachment), ANC (Army Nurse Corps), and FANY 's (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry). War service was hard, uncomfortable and often tragic. Overseas the nurses faced severe weather and shortages of basic resources, long hours at work and little time for breaks. These women proved their ability to undergo physical hardships equal to those endured by fighting men and withstand the pressures of combat situations. Even where women did not live in close proximity to the battlefront, military and government establishments…show more content…
Posters generally portrayed the work of nurses in war as an extension of women’s maternal and domestic responsibilities. The pictures of nurses used on recruitment posters emphasized the inspirational, angelic image of the wartime nurse, with the most famous example being a poster provided by the Red Cross, titled, “The Greatest Mother in the World”. The poster depicts a Red Cross nurse supporting a wounded soldier. The allusion to Mother Mary gives the title of the work an empowering meaning, and the Christian symbolism would have been highly compelling to a determined audience in this time period. However, the propaganda put forth by military establishments glorified the role of the wartime nurse, while the harsh reality was that no matter how thorough a nurse’s training before the war, nothing could have prepared them for the violence that was observed on the battlefront. In an excerpt from Daily Life during World War I by Neil Heyman, titled “Military Nurses and Their Auxiliaries”, an American nurse’s aide describes how “hundreds upon hundreds of wounded poured in like a rushing torrent...The crowded, twisted bodies, the screams and groans, made one think of the old engravings in Dante’s Inferno”. From this, it is possible to surmise…show more content…
However, once they joined and fully experienced what it meant to serve the armed forces, many nurses began to question the reasons for which they were promoting the war. In a chapter from World War I Primary Sources by Tom and Sara Pendergast, titled, “Diary Pages and a Field Letter”, written by a Kathe Russner, a German nurse serving on the Western warfront, details the daily struggles that the women had to face and later questions the need for the war. Because this is a firsthand account of the war, rather than a government sanctioned document or article of propaganda, there is reason to believe that information provided is unbiased, or at the very least, provides an accurate depiction of what went on. The account aligns with the notion that women who initially felt compelled to join the war effort in an attempt to do something of worth, soon realized amidst all the fighting and violence that the war itself was heedless and unnecessary. In her letter, Russner questions, “Why then, the sacrifice of all these lives?”, indicating a lack of understanding towards the reasons for the soldiers throwing themselves into
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