Historian Jerry White’s Top five women writers of the First World War

testament of youth by vera brittain

Over on The Telegraph, Jerry White, whose upcoming release Zeppelin Nights chronicles life in London during the first “London Blitz,” lists five books written by women about WWI. Some titles are familiar, and others are new to me, so I thought it would interesting to direct my readers to copies for their own perusal.

1) Non-Combatants and Others (1916) by Rose Macaulay – “a sharp and witty evocation of middle-class family life in the London suburbs during the war; the womenfolk in hospitals, canteens and charity organisations lead lives full of interest and fun amid the horror of news from the front.”

Available: Project Gutenberg

2) Missing (1917) by Mrs. Humphry Ward – “details the agonies felt by mothers and wives in the no man’s land between pain and fear, trying to track down their men reported missing, often destroyed without trace, in France.”

Available: Project Gutenberg

3) The Home Front (1932) by Sylvia Pankhurst – “close observation of working-class life in East London under the strains and anxieties of total war, based largely on her contemporary diary.”

Available: the copies I’ve discovered are very pricey, so check your library (or interlibrary loan) system!

4) A Diary Without Dates (1918) by Enid Bagnold – “recounts…her life as a voluntary aid detachment nurse in Woolwich.”

Available: Project Gutenberg

Also, Bagnold’s The Happy Foreigner chronicles her time as an ambulance driver in France directly after the war.

5) Testament of Youth (1933) by Vera Brittain – “A diary of nursing life is…a timeless saga of love and loss…[and] remains one of the greatest autobiographies of the 20th century.”

Available: Amazon



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6 replies on “Historian Jerry White’s Top five women writers of the First World War”
  1. says: Carrie Turansky

    Thanks for this list! My next book is set during WW1. I’ve just read Vera Brittian’s biography. That was really helpful. Now I’m reading Dorothea’s War. I love the sketches they included from her diary.

  2. says: hels

    Great list. Because working class women had always had to work, I would most like to read Rose Macaulay. It was her middle class women who had to defy their parents and husbands, to work in hospitals and facilities for soldiers, to drive ambulances etc. Cosseted perhaps, but brave modern women.

    1. True! But working class women had their own conflicts when moving into war work. I’ll never forget the abuse heaped on Ruby’s head when she left 165 Eaton Place to work at a munitions factory–and the “told you so’s” when she came back after the Silvertown Explosion. 😉

  3. says: Lucy Adlington

    I can also recommend Winifred Holtby – “The Crowded Street” Not only an excellent depiction of the claustrophobia felt by many women during the war, there are also very dramatic scenes of the bombardement of Scarborough in 1914

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