Nurses at the Front: Writing the Wounds of the Great War

Overview

Ellen N. La Motte (1873-1961) and Mary Borden (1886-1968) are two of the best known American nurses who wrote about their experiences working in the same field hospital on the Western Front during World War I. La Motte's The Backwash of War (1916) and Borden's The Forbidden Zone (1929) present in powerful, vivid, and often haunting prose each woman's acute observations of the stark realities of battle and the severe conditions under which military medicine is practiced.

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Overview

Ellen N. La Motte (1873-1961) and Mary Borden (1886-1968) are two of the best known American nurses who wrote about their experiences working in the same field hospital on the Western Front during World War I. La Motte's The Backwash of War (1916) and Borden's The Forbidden Zone (1929) present in powerful, vivid, and often haunting prose each woman's acute observations of the stark realities of battle and the severe conditions under which military medicine is practiced.

Now representative selections from these classic texts are published for the first time in one volume. Linked by parallel themes and narrative approaches, the episodes recounted by La Motte and Borden expose the intense, horrific world of the surgical wards and operating rooms. Revealing the moral dilemmas faced by those who make decisions about the lives and deaths of soldiers, they describe the ethical contradictions of saving men who will return to the trenches to kill or be killed. Written from the perspective of both observer and actor, these compelling sketches often shift from shocking realism to irony, as they invite the reader to enter the nurses' harsh world and to understand their professional and personal struggles. In addition, the depictions of men's suffering challenge institutional indifference to the human costs of war.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Higonnet (English, Univ. of Connecticut) brings together excerpts from the graphic, sometimes horrifying, accounts of two nurses' experiences in World War I: Ellen N. La Motte's The Backwash of War (1916) and Mary Borden's The Forbidden Zone (1929). Both women recognized the futility of nursing at the front, where the objective was to heal soldiers so that they might go back to kill or be killed. Indeed, La Motte's writing was so forceful that her book was censored for a time. Higonnet's introduction gives context to the women's writing and notes the parallels in their lives, the incidents they sketched and their observations of the conduct of war, and the place of women in particular. Their vivid descriptions and critiques of the war provide another viewpoint to those of combatants. Since the two original books are no longer in print and are not widely available, this volume would be a useful addition to academic and public libraries with interests in World War I and especially in women's accounts of the war. Patricia A. Beaber, Coll. of New Jersey Lib., Ewing Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555534844
  • Publisher: Northeastern University Press
  • Publication date: 4/19/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 161
  • Sales rank: 1,447,342
  • Product dimensions: 0.47 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
Glossary of French Terms
from The Backwash of War
Heroes 5
Alone 13
A Belgian Civilian 21
The Interval 29
Women and Wives 39
Pour la Patrie 49
A Surgical Triumph 57
At The Telephone 65
A Citation 69
from The Forbidden Zone
Belgium 81
The Square 85
Moonlight 89
Enfant de Malheur 99
Rosa 119
Conspiracy 129
Paraphernalia 133
In the Operating Room 137
Blind 145
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