Friday, January 12, 2018

A brief video with photos of the exhibit in the Hamersly Library during Spring 2017, and an interview with exhibit creator and curator Mar (formerly known as Max) Norr.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

“Birdie” Genevieve Lantz was born February 18th, 1888 in New Ross, Nova Scotia, Canada, to Patten and Amanda Lantz. She was one of nine children. She studied nursing at McLean Hospital of the Harvard Medical School (now a mental health institute). The First World War began in Europe in 1914. In 1915, Lantz joined the British Red Cross as part of the Harvard Unit, and crossed the Atlantic on the Andania from New York to Falmouth, England, along with about two dozen other nurses and medical staff. She was 27 years old. Even before America involved itself in the conflict, American units, such as the Harvard Surgical Unit, joined forces with British units and hospitals. With the Red Cross, she was stationed with the rest of the Harvard Unit at the 22nd General Hospital in Camiers, France, on the northern coast of the country (source: The Harvard Surgical Unit. Mobilizing Minerva, pg. 125.) The British called nurses "sisters," which is why the record books in these exhibits refer to Birdie Lantz as "Sister Lantz." For continuity, these exhibits will also refer to her as Sister Lantz when discussing her work as a nurse with the Red Cross.

Panoramic photo of Camiers from Maud Kealey's Flickr. To see related photos, click here.
Kealey, Maud. WW1 Camiers Dannes France. 1914-1918. In Flickr. March 3, 2008. Accessed February 5, 2017.

The 22nd General Hospital was part of a larger military compound that contained two other General Hospitals (the 18th and the 20th) a machine gun base WAAC (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps) camp, and a church. The 22nd tended to the wounded from the Battle of the Somme (1916), Ypres (1914-1917), and Neuve-Chapelle (1915), as well as many other battles and skirmishes. While working at the 22nd, Sister Lantz managed a ward and worked in several others (Source: Sister Lantz Record Book Number 3).

A hand-drawn map of the 22nd General Hospital, by Cardiologist Paul Dudley White.
White, Paul Dudley, 1886-1973., “Plan of No. 22 General Hospital (Camiers, France), 1916.,” Center for the History of Medicine: OnView, accessed February 5, 2017,

In 1915 Sister Lantz crossed the Atlantic with the Harvard Unit. She received the British War Medal in 1916 for her service in the conflict. Although the Harvard Unit remained in Camiers until 1919, it is unclear whether Sister Lantz returned home in 1918 or 1919. It is clear, however, that she was back in America by 1920.

During her service in Camiers, she kept a running catalog of her patients through a series of four ‘Record Books’. Infantrymen, soldiers, gunners, drivers, riflemen, and sappers (soldiers who specialized in construction, repair, and demolition) from Britain, Australia, Canada, America, New Zealand, and even Germany made their mark in these record books, leaving their experiences, jokes, illustrations, and autographs on the pages. Whether Sister Lantz was consciously collecting data for the sake of historical preservation is unclear, but whatever her reason, the data and stories she amassed are invaluable.

There are four record books, ranging in dates from 1915-1918. The first record book spans from June to September of 1916; the second from September of 1916 to September of 1917; the third From December of 1916 to June of 1918; and the fourth from June to August of 1918. To preserve the authenticity of the entries examined in these exhibits, the curator has maintained all grammar and spelling errors therein.

A sketch of the inside of the 22nd, drawn by A. Pane. From Sister Lantz's Record Books.
Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 3, December 1916-June 1918. Diary. Camiers, France. Sister Lantz Record Books.

One of the patients in Sister Lantz’s care, Private Walter A Smith, returned home with Sister Lantz at the end of the war. They married in July of 1920 and moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon, a couple of years later, where they raised their three children and maintained a farm near the rustic town. The 1930 census has Birdie Genevieve Smith listed as ‘homemaker’, so we can assume that after the war she did not continue her nursing career. She lived in Klamath with her family until her death on November 1st, 1963, and she is buried in Eternal Hills Memorial Gardens (source: "Longtime Resident Dies Here"). The wartime books she left provide little data about Sister Lantz herself, as they are full of stories and images from her patients, but the innumerable entries commending her for her kindness and goodness are a testament to her character and her contributions to history and the war effort.

One of the poems in her record books, by A.C. Birtte, states:

Of all the Sisters that I know
I really think she's quite the best,
It doesn't matter where you go
In North or South or East or West,

She always has a smiling face
And a score of helpful words
She moves about with ease and grace
And is as happy as the birds

She works in word and [illegible] too
And does it with all her might
For she is equal to all there is to do
If she had to work all night

But though she works so hard and well
She is always full of fun
And where there is a joke to tell
She'll tell it after work is done

She loves her work with heart and soul
She is good to everyone I know
For Doctors Nurses, patients all
Are tearful when she has to go.

She came from Boston – U.S.A.
To work for Tommy here in France
And Tommy's glad, I heard him say
He'd stay near her if he'd a chance

She's sweet and dear, she's bright and true
She is sympathetic, gentle too!
She is conscientious, loving, kind
No other like her will you find

Now take from me a little tip
Just watch her closely day by day
And soon you'll find that you'll improve
And copy her sweet gentle way

Good luck to you, dear Sister Lantz
Good luck to all your work in France
May you receive a good reward
I know you will

"The Harvard Surgical Unit." Center for the History of Medicine. Accessed February 09, 2017.
White, Paul Dudley, 1886-1973., “Plan of No. 22 General Hospital (Camiers, France), 1916.,” Center for the History of Medicine: OnView, accessed February 5, 2017,
Jensen, Kimberly. Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War. University of Illinois Press, 2008.
Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 3, December 1916-June 1918. Diary. Camiers, France. Western Oregon University Archives. Sister Lantz Record Books.
"Longtime Resident Dies Here." Herald and News (Bonanza), 1963.
Kealey, Maud. "WW1 Camiers Dannes France." 1914-1918. In Flickr. March 3, 2008. Accessed February 5, 2017.

The following is a transcription of an entry from Sister Lantz's fourth record book by Private J Boon of the 20th Middlesex Regiment. All spelling/grammatical errors are Boon's own and have been maintained to preserve the authenticity of the entry.

My experience of a night raid on the german[sic] trenches
It was about 7.30 on the night of Sunday the 8th of October 1916 when we were preparing to make a raid on Fritz a party started out towards their wire but as it was very light they were spotted by Fritz who started Bombing them so much that they were obliged to retire for a little while and about 8 oclock[sic] they had another try with the same result but on the third occasion they decided to stick to it at any cost well they started Bombarding on both sides and it was the most awful noise ever I heard in my life this lasted for about 2 hours there was Shrapnel Rifle and Machine gun Bullets flying about all over the place there was four of us holding a Sap[?] when all of a sudden I stopped a Shrapnel Bullet in my right leg which stopped my career then the first thing I could do was to get out of it as soon as I could but having Trench Boots on and being only about 3 sizes too big for me it was a job for me to get about 200 yards down the trench when I heard someone else behind me and when I looked round I saw some more fellows carrying some more wounded down on their backs so one of them said to me whats[sic] the matter with you chum so I told him and he said sit down on those steps for a few minutes and I will come and fetch you in when I have taken this chap and when I got to the Dressing station I found there was about 20 more of our Company there wounded there was a young Officer there leaning over his orderly who had got a bad wound simular[sic] to my own only his had gone right through his leg and his Officer was so much upset about him that he followed him to the next Dressing station and that was the last I saw of him
Written by 40218
Pte. J. Boon 20th Middx Rgt
While staying for a short period at A.9. Ward. 22nd General Hospital
B.E.F France
Wishing Sister Lantz and the other Sisters long life and real Happiness for their kindness to me during my little stay here

We don't know much more about Private J. Boon. Although he remains faceless, his experience with wartime medical care was shared by countless other servicemen during the Great War. Wounded or ill soldiers were carted from dressing stations to casualty clearing stations to base hospitals by field ambulances, train, or foot, and, if their injury or sickness was bad enough, they would go to "Blighty," which meant that they would be sent home (to England, specifically). During their journey from place to place, the servicemen encountered nurses, doctors, and makeshift hospitals (The Long, Long Trail). But it wasn't quite that straightforward.

Carol Acton, author of “Negotiating Injury and Masculinity in First World War Nurses’ Writing” notes that soldier patients walked a fine line between strength and weakness. A wound was at once a badge of masculine honor and a sign of weakness; the very act of being helpless and in need of care was emasculating for soldiers who had been trained to remain stoic and entirely ‘manly’: “pain endurance was built into military and civilian codes of masculinity.” Being wounded automatically put them in a place of helplessness and fragility. Some entries in Sister Lantz’s record books state the wound the authors received, but very few mention pain or weakness, and only one is rife with obvious emotional stress (the author writes of his desire to forget the whole ordeal, and mentions an ‘inability’ to describe his wartime experience due to trauma or psychological pain). Professionals in the field warned doctors and nurses against any emotions other than “stoicism and cheerfulness” in order to preserve wounded men’s sense of dignity as well as their mental stability during times of such intense mental and emotional strain. (Source: First World War Nursing "Negotiating Injury and Masculinity in First World War Nurses' Writing," 162).

Official sources and newspapers, too, glorified the injury and even death of soldiers, as in the below article from The Boston Post, April 21, 1917, Page 14. The small article focuses on the sentiments of one of the leaders of the Harvard Surgical Unit, which worked out of the 22nd General Hospital, and to which Sister Lantz belonged.

"Dr. Cabot Envies Harvard Men Who Are Facing Death in France." The Boston Post, April 21, 1917. Accessed March 16, 2017.

This article and others like it sensationalized and glorified the suffering and injury of servicemen for propaganda purposes, either to encourage enlistment or to bolster morale. It was useful in that way, but the concept was much different in practice than in theory.

Carden-Coyne, Ana. The Politics of Wounds: Military Patients and Medical Power in the First World War. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
"Dr. Cabot Envies Harvard Men Who Are Facing Death in France." The Boston Post, April 21, 1917. Accessed March 16, 2017.
Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 4, June-August 1918. Diary. Camiers, France. Western Oregon University Archives. Sister Lantz Record Books.
"The evacuation chain for wounded and sick soldiers." The Long, Long Trail. Accessed March 16, 2017.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

During the conflict, and especially following the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, the German attack on Belgium, and the execution of British nurse Edith Cavell, a sense of patriotism, engagement, and duty swept through the Allied nations, prompting many people to enlist in the military. Those who did not, or those who resisted the draft, were regarded as 'slackers' for failing to contribute to the war effort via national pride and service. With such pressure coming from propaganda, peers, and moral values, one must have felt obliged to cast off neutrality and fight for their country.

Elsworth Young. "Remember Belgium" (United States). Temple University Libraries. Accessed March 09, 2017.

"Recruitment Posters - Remember the ‘Lusitania’." Canada and the First World War. Accessed March 09, 2017.

"Anti-German Materials - Remember Edith Cavell." Canada and the First World War. Accessed March 09, 2017.

Propaganda like the examples above were made to evoke strong feelings of nationalism, duty, and vengeance; they used strong language to draw from viewers' feelings towards injustice, ethics, and even traditional gender roles. Their goal was two-fold: exact vengeance and justice on the perpetrators of the acts portrayed, and stop the acts from happening again. In the 1918 American 'Remember Belgium' poster, a German soldier drags a young woman along as flames consume the city in the background; this image strongly implies that moral trepidation has occurred and will continue to occur if the viewer does not take action. Although this poster was made to promote the sale of war bonds, the message is clearly biased against the enemy (namely, the Germans) and probably incited enlistment.

The 'Remember the Lusitania' poster has no imagery, but instead features a graphic, detailed description of the sinking of the Lusitania by German forces. This recruitment poster about the Lusitania focuses on avenging "this devil's work" and charges the German government with "murder." It cites enlistment as one's "duty" to their country and uses strong, forceful, official-sounding language to encourage viewers to exact vengeance on the German government for their crimes against the Lusitania and its passengers.

The third poster encourages viewers to remember the murder of Edith Cavell, a British nurse whom the Germans executed in 1915. She had been known to help soldiers from either side of the conflict, and she aided 200 Allied soldiers across enemy lines out of Belgium, which was occupied by the German forces. For her efforts, she was caught and tried by a German military court for assisting the enemy, and executed by firing squad. The British government used her death as a rallying cry for enlistment and service in order to avenge her.

These three instances - the German attack on Belgium, the sinking of the Lusitania, and the execution of Edith Cavell - are all mentioned in the poem "Neutrality" by Private John Aston of the 3rd Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians).

Oct 1st 1916
It is not that our Father’s English Blood,
Burns in, us now that England Bleed, it’s not
Friendship for France nor pity for the lot,
Of Belgium buried in, invasions flood,
That scorns Neutrality but there’s a flame.
Hot in the Hearts of Men whose spirits live.
Blaying[?] for the faith and Freedom Who can give
His soul the lie and wear a neutral’s name.
With worlds at stake? Be blind and dumb,
To murder mild-eyed and to Rapine numb, -
A senseless nothing! Who dares say we must
Be neutral? To the Lusitania’s Shame.
Neutral? To Edith Cavell’s martyr Fame?
Neutral - with Belgium broken in the Dust!

With best wishes to the Sister’s[sic] of Ward A9
22nd General Hospital
10431 Pte John Aston
3rd Leinster Regt

Private Aston obviously felt strongly about the concept of duty and national service, and implies that neutrality is like the destruction of "faith and Freedom" by the enemy. Private Aston sees neutrality as aid to the enemy and wrong in a moral sense; he believed the posters in that he felt the need to avenge Belgium, the Lusitania, and Edith Cavell. In other words, for Private Aston, the propaganda worked.

"Anti-German Materials - Remember Edith Cavell." Canada and the First World War. Accessed March 09, 2017.
"Edith Cavell 1865-1915." Edith Cavell 1865-1915. Accessed March 09, 2017.
Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 4, June-August 1918. Diary. Camiers, France. Western Oregon University Archives. Sister Lantz Record Books.
"Recruitment Posters - Remember the ‘Lusitania’." Canada and the First World War. Accessed March 09, 2017.
Young, Elsworth. "Digital Exhibits: Remember Belgium." Temple University Libraries. Accessed March 09, 2017.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Sister Lantz's record books, especially the second and third ones, are full of art. Ranging from simple doodles and designs, to regimental insignias, to political cartoons, to portraits, the art in the record books speaks to the fact that, even in the midst of war, artists were still creating. Not only that, but they were drawing inspiration from the chaotic world around them. This can provide deep insight into the artists' states of mind.

Alfred Emile Cornebise states in his monograph, Art from the Trenches: America's Uniformed Artists in World War I,: "Although war has its uncounted tragedies and late in the twentieth century confronts humanity with cataclysmic dangers, fields of battle are charged with action, color, and dynamism that cannot fail to appeal to those with creative talent" (Cornebise, 3). The author notes that governments used artists for military work, commissioning them to design camouflage and capture war scenes in drawings and paintings for promotional and propaganda uses "to counter German efforts (Cornebise, 7)" of the same nature (Cornebise, 7). However, there were some leaders that saw the official art movement as useless or silly. Although official war art was well-received by many, others, such as Lieutenant Colonel Waldo of the 126th Infantry, believed that art "'was no way to win the war'" (Cornebise, 40).

Luckily, dissenting viewpoints did not stop the use of art as a mode of depicting the war for official and recreational purposes. As seen in the works below, artists skillfully and passionately captured the wartime world in which they existed. In these selections from the many works in Sister Lantz's record books, one can clearly see the influence of the war on the artists' works and psyches.

Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 2, September 1916-1917. Diary. Camiers, France.

In the above page spread by Hugh Cyril Boggis, the left side displays a portrait of Captain Kettle, the protagonist of the then-popular series of adventure novels by C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne. Also on this page there are some sketches of men in uniform. On the opposite side of the spread, Boggis has drawn a serviceman holding a version of the Canadian Flag used until the 1920s. (The Canadian Encyclopedia) The caption reads: "Canada-Ypres-1915," and Boggis has inscribed his signature and the date. One can see what appears to be a cannon in the background, as well as shells bursting in the sky. The subject of the image, who could be Boggis himself, lifts his rifle with a helmet balanced on the barrel into the air. The Battle of Ypres, Belgium, had several distinct stages which took place years apart. Because Boggis has dated the battle to 1915, it is most likely that he is referring to the Second Battle of Ypres. In this battle, Germans first used gas on the Western Front, against British and Canadian soldiers entrenched near the town of Ypres. The Allied forces who bore the brunt of these first gas attacks sustained heavy casualties. (

Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 3, December 1916-June 1918. Diary. Camiers, France.

This cartoon, also by H.C. Boggis, shows two elderly men, Jan and Dan, conversing about an airplane sighting in what appears to be rural Great Britain. It seems that Boggis was making a comment about the apparent 'backwardness' of some of the rural folk with regard to the war and the separation of the war front and the homefront.

Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 3, December 1916-June 1918. Diary. Camiers, France.

Other art, as seen above, had obviously religious tones to it. Using Christian symbols, Rifleman T Bassett of the 34th London Regiment has left sentiments of "perfect peace" for Sister Lantz.

Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 3, December 1916-June 1918. Diary. Camiers, France.

The above watercolor painting of a delicate white fan is the only watercolor image in any of the record books. Although there does not appear to be any wartime or religious meaning in the work, there is obvious personal sentimental value when it is coupled with the caption "Just to remind you of our lunches" written by Charles A. Ilsley of the Royal Army Medical Corps. It suggests that Ilsley and Sister Lantz had had some good times together and that Ilsley wished to memorialize those times in the record books. Perhaps Sister Lantz had a similar fan.

Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 3, December 1916-June 1918. Diary. Camiers, France.

Private Henry Carlton of the 25th Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces, left a small vignette of a child and mother in the home. The mother asks, "what are you sighing for, Bobbie?" To which the child replies, "I was just thinkin' of the good old days before the war when ye used t'gimme a nickel once in a while." The image and dialogue suggest a melancholy longing for the normality before the conflict - specifically, traditional family values and happiness. Within his military paperwork, Private Carlton states that his profession was that of an "instrument maker." He was 34 years and six months of age when he enlisted in the AIF, and he went on to join the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion during the course of the war. He was discharged in 1919, after which he returned home to Australia, where he founded Carlton Glass in Brisbane, a company that is still in business today. He died on August 28th, 1951.

Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 3, December 1916-June 1918. Diary. Camiers, France.

Soldiers also used art to communicate the struggles and pain that they faced. In the image above, the artist depicted a man in a bed staring in fear as a plane drops a bomb on him. Accompanying the image are the words "will it ever come. I am dreaming of you." This suggests that, even in his sleep, the artist could not escape the fear that pursued him during the daytime. At any moment, soldiers were required to be ready for an attack, and oftentimes those attacks did happen, leaving soldiers with what was generally known as 'shell shock.' At the time, this was taken fairly lightly and compared to the jitters a man might get before proposing to a woman. However, this state of shock was a genuine post-traumatic stress response brought on by the intense and violent situations that servicemen had to face daily. Although the artist left no name, battalion, or service number, we can assume that this anonymous soldier, like countless others, experienced hypervigilance, fear, and trauma, which he then chose to depict in the above image.

Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 2, September 1916-1917. Diary. Camiers, France.

Other artworks in Sister Lantz's record books are political. The caption under the stylized image of the Kaiser features the German words "Gott Strafe England," which, in English, means "May God Punish England." The Kaiser holds a poster that reads "Peace and Goodwill by the Author of the Hymn of Hate." The contemporary culture references in this piece are directly related to the caption. The phrase "May God Punish England" was present on many pieces of German wartime propaganda, and became a popular slogan for German troops; it was also the subject of German Jew Ernst Lissauer's poem "The Hymn of Hate," written in 1914. The poem was strongly anti-British, as this part of the last stanza cries:

Hate by water and hate by land,
Hate of the head and hate of the hand,
Hate of the hammer and hate of the crown,
Hate of seventy millions choking down.
We love as one, we hate as one,
We have one foe and one alone--

The poem became so popular that it was issued to every member of the German military to boost morale and nationalism. Oddly, it also became popular for ironic reasons in England as well. Nevertheless, it was obviously anti-British and therefore represented the animosity between the two nations, as well as the would-be proof of the "'abominable'" Germans (source: Aronsfeld, C.C. "Ernst Lissauer and the Hymn of Hate."). The drawing above could be satirizing what the artist perceived to be duplicity and lies on the part of the German government.

Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 2, September 1916-1917. Diary. Camiers, France.

Some of the other art in Sister Lantz's books is more whimsical and representational, like the above drawing by Harry Newton of the 12th York and Lancaster Regiments. Although it still contains imagery of the war, it depicts something fairly simple and matter-of-fact and features a pun: "Drawing the Enemy's Fire." It is also something interesting to think about: a drawing of a soldier writing about a soldier drawing. The larger figure seems to be writing a letter that is transforming into a drawing entitled "My Trench Thought." Below the smaller soldier, another man peers out of a dug-out called "Hope Street" while shells burst in the distance.

Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 2, September 1916-1917. Diary. Camiers, France.

The above drawing by E. Dufoe features a wounded or sleeping soldier who seems to be dreaming about being in the hospital - perhaps the 22nd General Hospital - and being cared for by a nurse. The presence of the bursting shells in the distance shows the chaotic environment around the soldier as he dreams about a scene of peace and rest. In this way, many soldier artists drew the world they knew as well as the world they longed for.

The artists in Sister Lantz's record books captured the emotions and regular sights of the world around them: sadness, humor, sentiment, anger, indignation, stress, and yearning. They used art as the vehicle by which they channeled their experiences, and their artworks are an important thing to interpret within the record books.

Aronsfeld, C.C. "Ernst Lissauer and the Hymn of Hate." History Today 37, no. 12. December 1987: 48. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost. Accessed March 5, 2017.
Cornebise, Alfred E. Art from the Trenches: America's Uniformed Artists in World War I. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2014.
Duffy, Michael. "Battles - The Second Battle of Ypres, 1915." First World August 22, 2009. Accessed March 03, 2017.
Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 2, September 1916-1917. Diary. Camiers, France.
Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 3, December 1916-June 1918. Diary. Camiers, France.
Matheson, John Ross, and Auguste Vachon. "National Flag of Canada." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed March 03, 2017.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

(Note: This Private W.A. Smith, while bearing the same initials, is not the same Private W.A. Smith who married Sister Lantz.)

Since the end of the First World War, much of the historical focus has been on male contributions to the war effort. Even the cover of Sister Lantz's second record book proudly states "Book and Record of Brave Heroes." Female contributions to the war effort were largely ignored and erased, perhaps because they were largely non-combatants and, as females, their contributions and accomplishments were seen as inherently less significant as those of their male counterparts. Even when women's achievements and contributions were acknowledged, it was often with a demeaning tone. However, as we know, nurses were among the most influential and accomplished female participants in the war. Without these women, continued participation in and perpetuation of the war would have been impossible. Although they were healers as well as parts of the war machine and therefore negotiated a fine line between sentimentality and utilitarianism, nurses like Sister Lantz were imperative to the Allied armies' success. This poem by private W.A. Smith salutes the Red Cross nurses for their "glorious" work:

282. Pte W.A. Smith. A Company 24th Battalion 6th Inf Brigade A.I.F.
“The Woman's Part”
1.We often read of heroes
And deeds of gallantry
But what about those faithful souls
Who toil most patiently
I mean our Red Cross nurces[sic]
Who cheer each aching heart
They nobly do their glorious work
And play the woman's part.

2. Amongst the wounded soldiers
They spend their restless hours
Oh! could I say a word too much
For these dear ones of ours
Bravo! You Red Cross workers
Heroines, thou art
In this terrific struggle
You play the woman's part.

3. In our Red Cross Hospitals
You see them at their work
These kind and gentle sisters
Who, duties never shirk
With cheerful smiling faces
They look so neat and smart
And always show a willingness
To play the woman's part.

4.When we're lying wounded
And may be, in despair
They comfort us with kindness
And tender loving care
Oh! God install your blessings
In each and every heart
Of our dear Red Cross sisters
Who play the woman's part.
Original WS. 14/8/1916

The author of this poem, like much of the Western world, had strict notions of the roles each gender had to play in the arena of war. To Private W.A. Smith, nursing was an exclusively feminine realm. Nevertheless, he praises the Red Cross nurses for their valor and hard work in the "terrific struggle" of the war, citing them as "heroines." He casts them as veritable angels for playing the woman's role in the conflict, and never uses a masculine word, phrase, or symbol in his imagery. Even in his praise, he emphasizes their inherent difference from men/soldiers. In the microcosm of the 22nd General Hospital, there were strict gender binaries to be upheld.

A propaganda poster made towards the end of the war depicts a Red Cross nurse holding an injured soldier in a stretcher as one would a baby; this image draws on conventional mothering imagery as well as Christian symbolism like the mother Mary. Foringer, Alonzo E. “The Greatest Mother in the World.” World War One Propaganda Posters. December, 1918. Accessed February 23, 2017.

Gender roles were present and enforced in all the World War One hospitals, and everywhere women were present. The nurses assumed the domains of mother, sister, sweetheart, and caretaker all at once, which necessitated an attitude of mercy and cheerfulness. Indeed, authors within Sister Lantz’s record books wrote many poems about her gentle smile and kind demeanor, which was expected of women and especially women nurses. Numerous entries liken her to the patients’ literal sister. Many entries engage in not-so-subtle flirting, casting Sister Lantz (as well as several other nurses mentioned in the record books) as a surrogate sweetheart or ‘girl back home.’ Such was the role of women, and especially nurses, in the war.

Private William Alexander Smith was twenty years old when he enlisted in the Australian Expeditionary Force in 1915. He was from Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia and worked as a clerk. Private Smith was admitted to the 22nd General Hospital on August 8th, 1916 for a "mild" gunshot wound to the forearm, and rejoined his unit on September 21st. Private Smith's military paperwork states that he had suffered from a heart condition since he was twelve years old. He was discharged for "cardiac insufficiency...aggravated by active service" in March of 1917, and records list him as being "an inmate of Kyooma[sic] Sanatorium" in February of 1923. The Kyoomba Sanatorium was a hospital mostly for patients with Tuberculosis, those with lung problems brought on by German gas in the trenches, and those suffering from 'consumption' (source: Kyoomba RSL Research Project). He passed away in 1966.

Foringer, Alonzo E. “The Greatest Mother in the World.” Digital image. World War One Propaganda Posters. December, 1918. Accessed February 23, 2017.
Fell, Alison S., and Christine E. Hallett. First World War Nursing: New Perspectives. New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2013.
Kyoomba RSL Research Project. 2015. Accessed February 25, 2017.
Smith, William A. William Alexander Smith Army Documents. 1915-1958. Enlistment papers, medical documents, and correspondences belonging to Private William Alexander Smith, Australian Imperial Forces. National Archives of Australia.
Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 1, June-September 1916. Diary. Camiers, France.