What did you do in the Great War, Grandma? Dr Elsie Inglis and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals

Zvezdana Popovic, our Senior Customer Services Assistant, has been hard at work researching for her contribution to the British Library Exhibition, What did you do in Serbia in WWI, Grandma? and the Coventry Peace Festival (taking place next week). Read on for an insight into her fascinating exploration of women in WWI…

During World War I hundreds of thousands of women participated on the home front supporting the men who had gone out to fight – either working as nurses, teachers, tram drivers, land workers or in the munitions factories. This is what we generally know about women’s role in the Great War. Images of these women can be found on propaganda posters, tales of their acts of heroism accounted in books available in libraries across the country and students at schools will learn these basic facts in their history lessons.

Thousands of women were recorded as being on the Western Front and Eastern Front as nurses, doctors, orderlies, drivers, cooks, administrators. So, what do we know about these women?

The Women of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals

Over a thousand women served in the SWH during the Great War and, according to their records, half of the women were Scottish, the other half mainly English, some Irish and Welsh, and from all over the British Empire.

Reading their names, and their next of kin names and addresses, it is difficult not to feel sad, even bitterly disappointed that they are not commemorated anywhere. Miss FitzRoy lived at Lower Belgrave Street; Dr Potter, lived at Addison Road, Kensington, and Miss Rendall,  at Courtfield Rd, South Kensington. Miss Murphy, from Transport column lived at Onslow Gardens, and Miss Hodges, at Mornington Avenue, West Kensington, also from Transport Column, 28 women strong under Mrs Haverfield, Scottish baroness who founded the orphanage at Bajina Bašta and died there in 1920.

Dr Elsie Maude Inglis (1864-1917)

Elsie Inglis Edinburgh Library (2)
Elsie Inglis

Elsie Inglis was one of the first Scottish female doctors. A member of her London unit wrote:

There was a driving power in her fragile body which would have put a Rolls-Royce to shame, a genius for getting miracles to happen, and administrative gifts hardly distinguishable from statesmanship …

She established a maternity hospital in Edinburgh that was staffed entirely by women. She was also an active suffragist who advocated for women’s political freedom and played an important role in setting up the Scottish Women’s Suffrage Federation. Nevertheless, she did not agree with the suffragettes’ methods, that “women should throw tantrums to show how they deserve right to vote.”  (Margot Lawrence, Shadow of Swords, A Biography of Elsie Inglis, 1971, p.88)

However important, her medical achievements in Scotland were not the reasons that Elsie Inglis’s plaque was put up in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh and in the hospital ‘Dragiša Mišović’ in Belgrade and on the Memorial fountain in Mladenovac; and that she was commemorated by Clydesdale Bank on a £50 heritage note in 2009; and that she was voted second in one hundred most famous Scots – ‘100 Edinburgh’s Greatest.

Her death in November 1917 caused national shock and grief. Her body lay in state in St Giles Cathedral. The Queen sent a message of condolence to her sister.  She was buried in Dean Cemetery, in Edinburgh. At her burial, the flags of Great Britain and Serbia were placed on her coffin, and the lilies of France were placed around her body. Historic Scottish banners were placed over her head. Her pallbearers were Serbian officers.

Her funeral was followed by a memorial service in Westminster where members of parliament, government ministers, British diplomats, heads of Red Cross and Army Medical Services, representatives of French, Italian and Russian embassies and Serbian, Belgian and Rumanian legations, lords, ladies, suffragists, army and navy officers and many others came to pay homage to this ‘truly glorious woman’.

Winston Churchill wrote, after her death, that Inglis and her doctors and nurses “would shine forever in history.”

At that time everyone involved in the Scottish Women’s Hospitals was certain that what Florence Nightingale previously achieved for nurses, Dr Elsie Inglis had now done for women in medicine.

When the First World War started, women doctors and nurses wanted to help. Dr Inglis was too late to join Louisa Garrett Anderson’s Women’s Hospital Corps as they already had enough volunteers and left for France.

Elsie Inglis now applied to the War Office and suggested that women’s medical units should be allowed to serve on the Western Front. She was rejected with the words, “My good lady, go home and sit still.”

This is exactly what Elsie Inglis did not do. The Scottish Federation of Women’s Suffrage Societies took her idea,  agreed to form a hospitals committee, published a plea for funds and she was able to establish the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH).

Scottish Women's Hospital for Foreign Service

As her biographer, Leah Leneman, pointed out:

The War Office may have spurned the idea of all-women medical units, but other allies were desperate for help, and both the French and the Serbs accepted the offer. The first unit left for France in November 1914 and a second unit went to Serbia in January 1915. Inglis was torn between her desire to oversee the fund-raising and organizational side of the SWH and her desire to serve in the field, but in mid-April the chief medical officer of the first Serbian unit in Kragujevac, Dr Soltau, fell ill, and Inglis went out to replace her. During the summer she set up two further hospital units.

Late in 1915, during a major Austrian and German offensive, two of the hospital units in Kragujevac and Kruševac with Dr Inglis and Dr Hutchinson and their staff, were captured as they refused to leave wounded Serbian soldiers. Eventually, with the help of American diplomats, British authorities were able to negotiate the release of Inglis and her medical staff. The women of Scottish Women’s Hospitals were the most famous prisoners of war at that time.

Elsie Inglis’ last post was in the Dobrudja (Rumania, that time Russia) with the Serbian Division (SerbianVolunteer Corps) until October 1917. The London Committee did not know that Elsie Inglis was gravely ill. The situation in Russia was very difficult and the future of the Serbian division very unsecure. With her last efforts Dr Inglis did everything to influence and secure their movement from Russia to Macedonia towards the Salonika front. Elsie Inglis’ biographer believes that she was responsible for saving the Serb Division.

It took her unit three weeks to reach Newcastle. On 25th November 1917 Dr Ingles dictated the last letter to the London Committee and stood nearly 20 minutes while the entire Serbian staff and her SWH staff said goodbye. Elsie Inglis died the next day.

As Leah Leneman wrote, Elsie Inglis captured the public’s imagination. She was a heroine of a very British kind, her virtues of those of devotion to duty, and a keen sense of responsibility. She had endured hardship and deprivation in pursuit of her mission to aid sick and wounded – most notably the Serbs, who had been so badly let down by their allies – and she sacrificed her life in doing so. She was pragmatic, with a real can-do attitude.

Above all, Elsie Inglis had received no recognition, but considerable obstruction, from her own government.

It is hard to believe that today almost nobody knows the name of Dr Ingles.

To better understand women’s roles in the Great War, I particularly recommend two books: Lucinda Hawksley’s  March, Women, March and Kate Adie’s Fighting on the Home Front. The Legacy of Women in World War One to start with.

Kensington Central Library – January 2014

Hello to you all from the staff at Kensington Central Library and if it’s not too late to wish this on the last day of January- Happy New Year from us all! Despite January being a bit of a grim month – we’ve been busy and February will be even busier!

 From Princess Louise to smart cookery to stopping smoking

We’ve had some amazing events for adults and children this month. On a very cold night Lucinda Hawksley gave a very entertaining and informative talk about one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, Princess Louise. She was a remarkable woman who seemed to be ahead of her time. Lucinda is an excellent writer and speaker – we’re always happy to have her at the library as her events are excellent – entertaining, amusing and educational.

The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley
The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley
Lucinda Hawksley
Lucinda Hawksley

It’s been a healthy month for us too – Ooberkids Republic came to speak to a group of children about healthy eating, cooking, recipes and where our food comes from. Smokefree, the stop smoking service also had a stall in the library this month – a perfect time to help people keep their New Year’s Resolution perhaps?

Stop Smoking Service
Stop Smoking Service

From martial arts to fashion to Health Trainers

Don’t worry if you missed any of these events – we’ve got lots to offer you in February too!

On Tuesday 4 February at 6.30pm we’ve Spirit of the Martial Arts with Goran Powell. Goran is a martial arts author who holds a 5th Dan in karate. His first book Waking Dragons tells of his own mental, physical and spiritual preparation for the brutal 30 Man Kumite, one of karate’s toughest tests. His award-winning novels A Sudden Dawn and Chojun revolve around Zen and the traditional martial arts of Kung Fu and Karate. He will talk about and read from his new novel Matryoshka which touches on the fascinating link between Christianity and the newly-popular Russian martial arts. There are still a few tickets left so come along if you can.

Matryoshka by Goran Powell
Matryoshka by Goran Powell
Goran Powell
Goran Powell

To celebrate London Fashion Week in February for the Autumn /Winter 2014 collections, expert fashion management consultant David Jones and guest speakers will be speaking about the fashion industry. This is ideal for those that are thinking of starting a fashion business as a designer, retailer, importer or exporter. David Jones has worked in the clothing and fashion industry for 40 years and for the last 15 years has run his own consultancy, David Jones Fashion Management Services, specialising in fashion. This session is in partnership with Colin Rutt, Consultant and Business Advisor from Portobello Business Centre. This will take place on Thursday 27 February, 6 to 8pm, tickets are £10 and can be booked on Eventbrite.

London Fashion Week
London Fashion Week

We’re really pleased to announce that we’ll have Health Trainers at the library once a month. So whether you’d like to be fitter, change your eating habits, give up smoking or just feel a bit better about yourself, the Health Trainers can offer you guidance and information, in private, in person and for free. These drop-in sessions are the first Wednesday of every month, 11am to 1pm and the first session will be this Wednesday 5 February.

Health Trainers
Health Trainers

…And not forgetting the kids!

It’ll be half term in February so we’ve planned lots of exciting events to keep the kids entertained!

On Monday 17 February, 2 to 4pm we have a Fashion Design Workshop for children aged 10+. This workshop delivers a unique experience for budding fashionistas.

  • Take a crash course in the fashion design process
  • Experiment with drawing
  • Develop a colour palette 
  • Select fabrics for your designs
  • Formulate ideas through illustration

Sessions are led by Jennifer Sturrock, a graduate of London College of Fashion, who has worked in London-based fashion studios, gained experience in knitwear design with DKNY in New York City and developed sample designs for a luxury Parisian label. All materials will be provided. Places are free but strictly limited so do book a place soon so you’re not disappointed!

Are you a budding fashionista?
Are you a budding fashionista?

For younger kids (4 to 10) we’ll have a half term story and craft session Thursday 20 February, 3 to 4pm. These are great sessions – a chance to listen to a good story & then get crafty. No need to book a place – just turn up!

Oh and last but not least we’re really lucky to have Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea at the library on Wednesday 19 February, 1 to 1.30pm.  This will be a fun interactive performing arts session which will include storytelling, puppetry, singing and movement. It’ll be suitable for children 0 to 7 years.

Chickenshed Theatre at Kensington & Chelsea
Chickenshed Theatre at Kensington & Chelsea

Something for everyone – we hope to see you soon!

Kensington Central Library – October 2013

Kensington Central Library
Kensington Central Library

Hello to you all from the staff at Kensington Central Library!  Autumn seems to have started but don’t worry – we have plenty of events happening that’ll keep you out of the wind and rain…..

Events past and coming up

Scary masks!

Gruffalo crafts
Gruffalo crafts

On Saturday 21 September, some scary monsters appeared in Kensington Central Children’s Library, the scariest was the Gruffalo himself! Everyone gathered round for the story of a little mouse who plays a big trick on his fellow animals. Then we made masks to disguise ourselves as all the different animals. There were lots of animal noises to be heard for a while afterwards!

We are now holding a story and craft session every Saturday in the children’s library at 2pm, until 3pm. Come and join us, for more creative fun!

Gemma Baker
Gemma Baker

Gemma Baker

Senior Customer Services Assistant

Author events

We’re extremley to lucky to have some great authors speaking at Kensington Central LIbrary this month –

John McHugo talks about his latest book, Sophie Parkin explores bohemian Soho, and Lucinda Hawksley marches with the Suffragettes.

John McHugo will be appearing this evening Tuesday 15 October, 6.30 to 8pm, Sophie Parkin will be here on Thursday 17 October, 6.30 to 8pm and Lucinda Hawksley on Tuesday 29 October, 6.30 to 8pm. Tickets will be available on the door.

Full details of these events are on the library events page.

Social media help

Facebook and Twitter logos
Facebook and Twitter logos

Like to learn more about Facebook and Twitter? We’ve a free training session at Kensington Central Reference Library on Friday 25 October, 10am to 12 noon. Places are limited so book your place soon at the library.

Half term fun!

Half term in the Royal Borough is week commencing Monday 28 October and we’ve plenty of events to keep your kids of all ages busy.

HiRes Halloween
Halloween!

They’ll be a Halloween story and craft session on Wednesday 30 October, 2 to 3pm for four to ten year olds.

Persian tile
Persian tile

Also we two Persian themed workshops – Persian dance on Tuesday 29 October, 2 to 4pm for eight to fourteen year olds and Persian art on Thursday 31 October, 2 to 4pm for five to eleven year olds. Both these events are part of the Nour Festival of Arts and can be booked on www.nourfestival.eventbrite.co.uk

New displays

We’ve some new book displays this month that have been put together by our creative staff – pop in and take a look!

We’ve displays for:

  • Black History Month
  • Man Booker Prize
  • Graphic novels – a selection of our collection

Hope to see you at our events this month!

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

Jodie Green

Lending Librarian

The London History Festival 2013 – fringe events

London History Festival 2013
London History Festival 2013

London History Festival

18 to 28 November 2013

Kensington Central Library and Waterstones Kensington

Kensington Central Library and Waterstones Kensington will be hosting the fifth London History Festival this autumn.

Sir Max Hastings will be talking about his new history of the First World War. We are also pleased to welcome for the first time Lady Antonia Fraser on the Great Reform Bill, Artemis Cooper on Patrick Leigh Fermor and Charles Moore on Lady Margaret Thatcher.

There are also events on medieval warfare, the British soldier and in our fringe events Bohemian Soho, the Suffragette movement and the history of the Arab peoples. The Festival is bigger and better than ever.

I will blog about the London History Festival events in more detail soon – in the meantime you can collect a programme from your local Kensington and Chelsea Library or check out the London History Festival events page on our website.

The London History Festival 2013 – fringe events

John McHugo: A Concise History of the Arabs

John McHugo
John McHugo

Tuesday 15 October, 6.30 to 8pm
Kensington Central Library

Join John McHugo who will talk about his recently published work A Concise History of the Arabs which deals with the political, social and intellectual history of the Arabs from the Roman Empire right up to the present day. He will cover the mission of the Prophet Muhammad, the expansion of Islam, medieval and modern conflicts, the interaction with Western ideas, the struggle to escape foreign domination, the rise of Islamism, and the end of the era of dictators. The book reveals how the Arab world came to have its present form, why change was inevitable and what choices lie ahead following the Arab Spring. This will be followed by a Q and A session.

This event will be hosted by Kensington and Chelsea libraries in partnership with Al Saqi Books and is part of the Nour Festival. Tickets for this event are £5 (£3 concessions) and are on sale at all Kensington and Chelsea libraries and via Librariesline on 020 7361 3010.

Sophie Parkin: The Colony Room: a history of Bohemian Soho 1948 – 2008

Sophie Parkin
Sophie Parkin

Thursday 17 October, 6.30 to 8pm
Kensington Central Library

Sophie Parkin tells the story of the Colony Room which opened in Dean Street in 1948. For sixty years it became a meeting place for some of the most creative minds of modern times in music, theatre, art, literature, comedy and espionage. Sophie has collected tales of high jinks and low tragedy over 50 interviews with the members of one of London’s unique institutions.
Tickets for this event are £5 (£3 concessions) and are on sale at all Kensington and Chelsea libraries and via Librariesline on 020 7361 3010.

Lucinda Hawksley: March, Women, March

Lucinda Hawksley
Lucinda Hawksley

Tuesday 29 October, 6.30 to 8pm
Kensington Central Library

Lucinda Hawksley will be talking about her new book, March, Women, March, which traces the voices of the women’s movement in Britain, from Mary Wollstonecraft in the 18th century through to the “Flapper Election” of 1929, when all adult women were finally permitted to vote. As well as the famous names March, Women, March also recalls the many brilliant campaigners whose names have been forgotten over the years. Come and hear the witty, inspirational and shocking stories of how the vote was won.

Tickets for this event are £5 (£3 concessions) and are on sale at all Kensington and Chelsea libraries and via Librariesline on 020 7361 3010.

Dave Walker
Dave Walker

Dave Walker

Local Studies Librarian, Kensington Central Library