Source and activity 4

Magazine article about women on the front line, 1917

News cutting photo of nurse in front of sandbags
Magazine photo.
[NLS reference: Acc.8006 (i)]
View photos and
article transcription

A page from the 'Illustrated War News' focuses on women working on the front line during the First World War.

Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker

The photographs show Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker, two British women who famously set up a first aid post on the front line in Belgium (see source 3).

The magazine article is part of a scrapbook of press cuttings compiled by Mairi Chisholm, and now part of the collections at the National Library of Scotland.

Suggested activities

Look at this article from the 'Illustrated War News' which focuses on women's work during the First World War. Try to find out more about the 'Illustrated War News' and its readership. What impression does this article convey about the war for the readers in Britain?

Look at the photographs. How well do they convey the danger of working on the front line, or the type of work that women were doing there? Compare these images with some of the official photographs of men on the front line.

You can also compare these photographs with the film clip of the women's field hospital (source 5). How do the different sources show the role of women during the war?

Do you think that the text was written by a man or a woman? Give reasons for your answer. Make a list of the words and phrases that are used to describe the women in the photographs. What do these descriptions suggest about the attitude towards women working on the front line?

On 2 February 1915, May Sinclair wrote an article in the 'Daily Chronicle'. She commented on the way in which male foreign correspondents were emphasising women's 'pluckiness' and their heroic sacrifice, rather than showing the hard work that went on behind the scenes.

'The finest part of it will never be known, for it was done in solitary places and in the dark when Special Correspondents are asleep in their hotels'. Evaluate source 4 in the light of this statement.


Source and activity 5



Themes in focus — Women in the Great War


Find out more about women in the First World War in NLS collections

Search our catalogue for details of books about women's role in the First World War.


View list of material relating to Mairi Chisholm (PDF: 56 KB; 2 pages) in the military and naval papers collections at NLS.


Explore our web feature 'Experiences of War' web feature based on diaries and first-hand accounts.


View official photographs of the First World War .


Learn about the women's suffrage movement in Scotland in our online learning resource.


Visit Scotland on Screen to find film clips relating to the First World War and women at work.

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