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Angels and Citizens: British Women as Military Nurses 1854-1914
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Angels and Citizens: British Women as Military Nurses 1854-1914 (Paperback)

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In this history of British women as military nurses between 1854 and 1914, the author combines a detailed account of the origins and development of the regular Army Nursing Service and its successor, the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nusing Service, with a narrative of the early years of the Red Cross and the experiences and adventures of women volunteers in the international war relief movement. Long before the electoral process gave them the vote, wars offered women many of the social rewards the vote symbolized: valued occupations, badges of honour and distinction, and a recognized position in the machinery of state. Wars represented a combination of citizenship, social legitimation, and personal challenge. Yet, as the author shows in this work, the figure of the war nurse was full of paradoxes: a symbol of motherhood and domesticity, required to play a part on the international stage; a symbol of healing, required to colaborate with a strategy of collective slaughter; a symbol of service and self-abnegation, encouraged to show pluck, initiative and responsibility.

This story of the feminization of a formerly male profession and the militarization of the quintessentially civilian sector of society makes a vital contribution to our understanding of the public roles of women in the 20th century. It illuminates not only the failure of the pre-war feminist movement to construct a pacifist platform, but also the wholehearted and fatal mobilization of western Europe for the catastrophe of World War I.

Anne Summers is Curator of Twentieth-Century Political Papers in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Library, Honorary Professor in History at Middlesex University, and a founding editor of History Workshop Journal. She is a former Community Education Organiser for Oxfordshire County Council, and was a Wellcome Research Fellow at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at the University of Oxford from 1986 to 1989. Her latest book is Female Lives, Moral States, Women, religion and public life in Britain, 1800-1930 (Threshold Press 2000).

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