Portrayals of suffering: perceptions of trauma in the writings of First World War nurses and volunteers

Christine E. Hallett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The trauma-writings of World War I nurses have been identified as an important and influential corpus of early 20th-century works. Not only did the rediscovery of these writings in the later 20th century serve to recognize the importance of women's writings as part of the historical record, and identify certain female writers as some of the most important thinkers of the modernist movement; they also demonstrated the importance of the nursing perspective as one element of wartime experience. This paper considers a number of influential works written by both nurses and members of the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) who assisted with nursing work during the war. The paper identifies how nurses and VADs presented their experiences of war trauma. It also considers how some writers strove to attach meaning to (or in some, cases expressed their sense of the meaninglessness of) the suffering caused by the war. The paper considers further how some nurses themselves experienced trauma as a result of their exposure to wartime work, and how some writers developed what are referred to as "philosophies of suffering," in which they struggled to understand suffering as an element of human experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-84
Number of pages20
JournalCanadian bulletin of medical history = Bulletin canadien d'histoire de la médecine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


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