No Man’s Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain’s Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I by Wendy Moore
English | April 28th, 2020 | ISBN: 1541672720 | 368 pages | EPUB | 29.51 MB
Discover the true story of two pioneering suffragette doctors who transformed modern medicine, raised standards for patient care, and shattered social expectations for women in WWI-era London.
A month after war broke out in 1914, doctors Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson set out for Paris, where they opened a hospital in a luxury hotel and treated hundreds of casualties plucked from France’s battlefields. Although, prior to the war, female doctors were restricted to treating women and children, Flora and Louisa’s work was so successful that the British Army asked them to set up a hospital in the heart of London. Nicknamed the Suffragettes’ Hospital, Endell Street soon became known for its lifesaving treatments and lively atmosphere.
In No Man’s Land, Wendy Moore illuminates this turbulent moment when women were, for the first time, allowed to operate on men. Their fortitude and brilliance serve as powerful reminders of what women can achieve against all odds.
It was like slipping into a dream. Or waking from a nightmare. They had grown used to the constant thunder of shelling, the crackling of rifles and machine guns, the screams and groans of their comrades. Now all they could hear was the gentle thrum of the city at night as they rumbled through dark, deserted streets. For months, they had known only the rural landscapes of France and Flanders, where every living thing had been crushed and obliterated into the mud of the trenches and shell holes. Now they were being driven down a narrow street between tall buildings that blotted out the night sky. They had been living in a world peopled by men. But now they would enter a world run solely by women.
Most of them were young men in their twenties and thirties; some were just boys in their late teens. Officially, they were supposed to be at least nineteen to fight overseas, but some had lied about their age. Many had signed up in bands of friends in a fit of patriotic zeal, or shown up shamefaced at a recruitment office after being challenged with a white feather by a stranger in the street. For some, being injured had come as a blessing—a “Blighty wound” that allowed them to escape the death and devastation of war. For others, their injuries meant a new kind of terror and fear for the future: the prospect of never working, perhaps never walking again, the possibility of perpetual pain, of permanent disfigurement. They had suffered long and agonizing journeys, having been scooped up from the battlefield by regimental stretcher-bearers, sometimes after lying abandoned for hours in “no-man’s-land” before being shuttled back to casualty posts in tents and dugouts for basic first aid, a shot of morphine, and perhaps a hurried operation. They had been transported in ambulance trains to one of the French ports, crammed into hospital ships to cross the Channel, then packed into Red Cross trains bound for London. Arriving at one of the mainline stations, they had been collected by volunteers who drove them in ambulances or private cars across town. If the men asked their drivers where they were being taken the answer came: “To the best hospital in London.”
When they pulled up outside the old workhouse building in Endell Street, in the heart of London’s Theatreland, the great black iron gates were opened by a woman in a military-style jacket and ankle-length skirt. The ambulances juddered to a halt in the dimly lit courtyard, and women stretcher-bearers, wearing the same military-style uniforms, carried them to a lift. When they arrived on one of the wards, they saw a room bright with colored blankets and fragrant with fresh flowers. Rows of patients watched, their heads resting on crisp white pillows, as the new arrivals were lifted onto coarse blankets protecting the beds from their muddied and bloody uniforms.