We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First World War

Written by Vivien Newman
Review by Edward James

The title of this book does not do justice to its scope. In the preface, Vivien Newman observes that our remembrance of the First World War focuses almost exclusively on male service and male sacrifice. She wants us to remember the women who served.

In practice she gives us a survey of the impact of the war on the entire female population of Britain (plus some references to other parts of the Empire), including participants, observers and victims. Her longest chapter is about bereavement, with separate sections on the loss of sons, lovers, husbands and brothers. Unwittingly she underlines the extreme maleness of the conflict, at least for the British Empire, in comparison with most earlier and later wars, reflecting the extreme gender segregation of contemporary British society.

Other chapters cover women’s roles in shaming men to fight (the Order of the White Feathers), knitting ‘comforts’ for the troops, munitions workers, nurses, spies and the women’s armed services: a short book rich in facts and personal testimonies.