Angels and Citizens: British Women as Military Nurses, 1854-1914

TitleAngels and Citizens: British Women as Military Nurses, 1854-1914
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1988
AuthorsSummers, Anne
Number of Pages371
PublisherRoutledge & Kegan Paul

By late September of 1854, before a shot had been fired in the Crimea, nearly 1,000 British soldiers had died of intestinal diseases. Aside from the lack of medical supplies, proper nutrition, ambulance transport, and any sort of efficient medical organization, a major difficulty lay in the treatment administered to infected patients. In this context, the author in this volume traces the benefits brought by the "lady volunteers" and nurses who followed Florence Nightingale to the Crimea, even if most of their contribution had more to do with "care" than "cure," with housekeeping rather than nursing. The author's intent is, in part, to correct the misperceptions surrounding the role of female nurses in the Crimean War and to remove the hagiographic halo that surrounds Florence Nightingale, while restoring the reputation of the "ladies" and sisters who served at other bases and whom Nightingale tended to libel. The author concludes that there is no evidence that Nightingale's methods were any more successful than those of other female nurses, or for that matter that Nightingale's nurses were superior to the existing corps of male orderlies she wished her nurses to replace. The author of this work, however, intends far more than just a reappraisal of Nightingale. Her purpose in sketching the history of military nursing is threefold: to understand women's attitudes toward war in the second half of the nineteenth century; to gain insight into women's growing engagement with the public sphere; and to demonstrate that as women began to "civilianise" the army with their presence, they themselves became militarized.

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