At the frontlines, 1915–1916
in Ellen N. La Motte
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This chapter investigates La Motte’s experiences nursing in a French military hospital by using primary sources such as diaries and letters. By incorporating these items, this chapter documents La Motte’s understanding of the meaning of the war and how she originally recorded her reactions to caring for gravely injured patients and working with an international nursing group. It also studies how she transformed her initial impressions into the sketches that constitute her book, The Backwash of War, published in 1916. A reading of the published work alongside her diary allows for an investigation of how those accounts differ and how her representative practices evolved in regard to her memories of World War One. Taken together, her powerful depictions of the inside of a military hospital offer the opportunity to examine how personal and professional experiences and motivations intersected to forge distinct memories and narratives of the failures and triumphs of hospital work during the Great War.

Ellen N. La Motte

Nurse, writer, activist

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