Nancy Martin


This article provides an analysis of a range literary texts and memoirs written by, and about, women who served as nurses, VADs, and ambulance drivers on the Western Front. It explores how these texts represent “feminine” identity in relation to the war’s emotional and physical trauma and focuses, in particular, on moments where conventional notions are challenged, or made impossible, by the war’s chaos. In addition, this article explores how these women understood, articulated, and represented the men they sought to aid. Fundamental to this discussion is an exploration of the period’s propaganda and iconography and how these women writers attempted to negotiate an intelligible identity in relation to it. The article’s primary aim is to expose, and navigate, some of the complex sites of ideological battle within Britain during the First World War. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate the complexity, ambiguity, and flexibility of both “femininity” and “masculinity” in the context of dramatic social change.

Author Biography

Nancy Martin is currently reading for a DPhil in English at the University of Oxford. She completed her undergraduate degree in English and Biology as well as two first-class masters degrees (English and Women’s Studies) in Canada. She specializes in late-Nineteenth and early Twentieth-century literature and culture. Her current research explores the literature of the First World War, focusing on representations of masculinity and femininity in both fiction and memoir.