FROM motorcycling medics pioneering frontline care to a courageous soldier-smuggling nurse – Manchester’s IWM North is sharing remarkable stories from its collections to celebrate International Women’s Day.
To mark the occasion, which falls on 8 March, the museum will be remembering ground-breaking women who lived through challenging circumstances through its Twitter account @IWMNorth using the hashtag #100YearsOfWomen.
Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker, often referred to as the most photographed women of the First World War, are among the women whose contributions from a century ago still have relevance today.
Already defying convention before the outbreak of war as keen motorcycle racers and enthusiasts, Mairi and Elsie volunteered as Red Cross ambulance drivers in France. Elsie, a trained nurse, believed that more lives could be saved if wounded soldiers were treated closer to the frontline so, at huge personal risk, they set up their own first aid post to reduce response time for injured soldiers.
Visitors can see Mairi’s uniform and the crucifix she carried on the Western Front in IWM North’s Main Exhibition Space.
Others who broke the mould include Flora Sandes – the only British woman to serve as a soldier during the First World War – and Edith Cavell, the courageous nurse who helped more than 200 British, French and Belgian soldiers to escape German occupied Belgium before being executed in 1915
Flora’s revolver and a copy of the last letter Edith Cavell wrote to a fellow nurse are among the items on display.
Ahead of the General Election, learn of the Suffragettes’ response to the outbreak of the First World War, led by Manchester’s famous Pankhurst family, and how females working in occupations previously reserved for men were a catalyst in gaining women the vote.
Charlotte Czyzyk, First World War researcher at IWM North, said: “There are so many incredible ways in which the First World War marked a turning point for women in society.
This March is a chance for us to share even more stories from our collections of women who pushed the boundaries.”
Find out more at www.iwmnorth.co.uk