At the outbreak of World War I, 129 women were registered as medical practitioners in Australia, and many of them were eager to contribute their skills and expertise to the war effort. For the military establishment, however, the notion of women doctors serving on the battlefield was unthinkable. Undaunted, at least twenty-four Australian women doctors ignored official military policy and headed to the frontlines.
This book explores the stories of the Australian women who served as surgeons, pathologists, anaesthetists and medical officers between 1914 and 1919. Despite saving hundreds of lives, their experiences are almost totally absent from official military records, both in Australia and Great Britain, and many of their achievements have remained invisible for over a century. Until now.
Heather Sheard and Ruth Lee have compiled a fascinating and meticulously researched account of the Great War, seen through the eyes of these women and their essential work. From the Eastern to the Western Fronts, to Malta, and to London, we bear witness to the terrible conditions, the horrific injuries, the constant danger, and above all, the skill and courage displayed by this group of remarkable Australians. Women to the Front is a war story unlike any other.
About the Author
Heather Sheard was a Victorian secondary school teacher and Assistant Principal. After retiring she researched the history of Victoria’s Maternal & Child Health Centres for a Master’s degree at the University of Melbourne, published as All the Little Children : the story of Victoria’s Baby Health Centres in 2007 and re-printed in 2017. Her PhD, also undertaken at Melbourne was a biography of Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown published in 2016 as A Heart Undivided: the Life of Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown, 1889-1946 . During her PhD research she was captivated by the stories of a number of largely unheralded Australian women doctors who served during the Great War and determined to write about their experiences and contribution.
Heather has written articles for The Conversation, Spirit of Progress, City of Kingston and Chiron and chapters in Founders, Firsts and Feminists, Women Leaders in Twentieth Century Australia, 2011; Strength of Mind: 125 Years of Women in Medicine, ed. 2014 and Women Doctors: Proving their Worth in Compassion and Courage: Doctors and Dentists at War, 2015.
Heather lives in Elwood and has a ‘petite’ holiday cottage near the wineries of Burgundy, France.