'Taking the long journey'. Australian women who served with allied countries and paramilitary organisations during World War One

Date

2016

Authors

Williams, Selena Estelle

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Abstract

This thesis explores the experiences of Australian women who sought war-work as volunteers or with an allied medical or paramilitary service outside their own country, during World War One. Prior to 1914 a large number of women had travelled from Australia to further their artistic and musical careers or to increase their skills and knowledge in the medical profession. Others had simply left to develop an appreciation of a more cultured world in Europe and England. Many of these women were still overseas when hostilities began and therefore had more opportunity for war work in a range of diverse occupations, than women who remained in Australia. After war was declared in 1914, women in Australia were caught up in the same patriotic sentiments as their men-folk quickly becoming engaged making and packing comforts for distribution to soldiers overseas. Many women found this safe domestic work unacceptable believing any work they could find closer to the front, would be of greater value. To achieve this, numerous nurses and doctors who were unable to serve with their own country, joined the medical services of a nation allied to their own. Hundreds of Australian women also joined the Australian Red Cross Society (ARCS) and the British Red Cross Society (BRCS) serving in Voluntary Aid Detachments. These women worked in hospitals in England and military encampments close to battle zones in France, Serbia and Egypt. Other women were engaged in voluntary work - meeting trains, visiting hospitals and convalescent homes and providing entertainment for the troops at the Anzac Buffet, the Aldwych Theatre and the A.I.F. & War Chest Club in London. Others joined a paramilitary service such as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), the Women’s Royal Air force (WRAF), the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the French, American or Italian Red Cross. ‘Taking the Long Journey’ was not only a physical journey but a mental one as well. War work close to the front was challenging and sometimes dangerous. Having to deal with waste, death and destruction greatly affected a large number of women during the war and they grieved for those they had lost. Finding peace and contentment after they returned home, without full recognition of the work they had done and in some cases without repatriation benefits was for many of these women extremely difficult and for some, unobtainable.

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World War One, women, war, medical services, nurses, doctors, casualty clearing stations, hospitals, voluntary aid detachments, travel, repatriation, military and disability pensions

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Thesis (PhD)

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DOI

10.25911/5d778b9498e7a

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