Monday, 25 July 2016

The full story available now … at last!

First came the research. Then the fumbling attempts to write it up - the embarrassing first drafts and the constant editing. 

Then there were the rejection slips and the decision that, even if the mainstream didn't want to tell the story of a professional woman navigating her way through WW1, her tale had to be told - it represented the tales of so many other women who were also in danger of being omitted from the centenary commemorations. 

So today, 100 years after the most important centenary of her war, The Mystery of Isabella and the String of Beads: A Woman Doctor in WW1 is available on Amazon or can be ordered through all good bookshops.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Only a week to go ...

The Mystery of Isabella and the String of Beads: A Woman Doctor in WW1

Available as ebook or paperback from Amazon or any good bookshop from 25th July.

Here's the blurb.

It was the inscription that made the antique scalpels so tantalising: ‘Isabella Stenhouse’. A woman doctor? A woman doctor who was rumoured to have served in the First World War? Could Isabella have treated wounded men with these very implements? And had a grateful German prisoner of war really given her the strange string of beads that tangled round her stethoscope? 

Coaxing clues from archives across Europe, Katrina Kirkwood traces Isabella's route from medical school to the Western Front, Malta and Egypt, discovering as she travels that Dr Stenhouse was not only one of the first women doctors who worked with the British Army - she was also a woman carrying a tragic secret, torn between ambition and loyalty to her family.

Isabella’s story was selected for the BBC Antiques Roadshow’s WW1 centenary edition, and featured by national, international and local media.

'The quiet heroics of a woman on a WW1 battlefield' Daily Express

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The 100 Year Women's War

'Concern had centred on whether women had the physical capability to withstand the demands on their body that some of the roles will require.'

When I read these words last Friday, I was engulfed by a feeling of déjà vu. I had come across this argument time and again during my research. It was, for example, one of the ways in which adults tried to dissuade Edwardian girls from training as doctors. 

But the incarnation I was reading did not come from the Times of 1905. It was live on the BBC website - and not as history, but as news. It related to the government's recent decision to allow women to serve in close combat roles in the British military. 

Now I am no military expert and couldn’t begin to make judgements about this particular case, but I found the parallels fascinating. When I read that: 'Young men and women  will inevitably form relationships and personal issues will disrupt the dynamics of units'I was back with Vera Brittain in her VAD uniform, watching the restrictions that the terrified authorities were placing on volunteer nurses to ‘ensure’ that romance had no chance.

Trawling the internet, I read how: 

It was a similar anxiety that made the authorities send Dr Isabella Stenhouse and her colleagues, the first women doctors they had ever employed, to Malta. They regarded it as much safer than letting them anywhere near the front line in France.

I read on, and guess what? The rule change comes amid reports of a recruitment crisis and undermanned army reserves.’ Why, undermanning was exactly the problem that faced the army medical services in 1916 - the problem that led them to risk recruiting Dr Stenhouse and her colleagues. 

One compensation is that, a century on: 

I just hope that these new combat-ready women will not suffer the indignities that were imposed on their pioneering military ancestors, the women doctors who signed up with the army this month 100 years ago.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Why July 1916 was an important month for women doctors

Courtesy of Sarah Wilkin from Oxford University's WW1 Centenary blog you can discover why July 1916 was an important month for professional women here:

WW1 Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings

Sarah kindly invited me to submit a post related to my research on Dr Isabella Stenhouse. I was thrilled when she posted it last Friday, the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

The Somme was, and is, such a huge event that it overshadows everything else that happened that July one hundred years ago. But for Isabella, July 1916 had another meaning - the 24th was the day she signed up with the Army.

From the start of the war, the Army had refused to employ women doctors but, by that July, the desperate needs of the wounded had broken their resolve and they asked medical women to help them. Isabella was one of the first to sign up.