Research project

Topic: Australians at War: World Wars I and II
Student activity

This is the student activity 1 of 1 of the Women and war learning activity.

Task No. 1

Research project

Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton (Eng.) / taken by A. W. Savage 1915-17
Dr. Herschel Harris war photographs in France and Lemnos
Scrapbook of photographs of the 3rd Australian General Hospital, at Lemnos Island, 1915-1916

As a journalist for a major newspaper in Australia, you have been asked to write an 800 word article profiling the experience of one woman who participated in WW1. This article will form part of a series tracing the changing lives of women through history, for International Women’s Day. 

In order to complete this task, choose one woman from Tasks 2 to 7 below, and use the selected sources, as well as Sources in Task 1, to carry out you research. (Note: many of the sources have been transcribed, ie. typed out for reading convenience, so you do not have to decipher the handwriting.) Ensure your article reflects a thoughtful consideration of historical context. 

The following questions may help you in your research:

  • Where and when did she participate in the war effort?
  • What was her contribution?
  • What was her motivation to participate in the war?
  • What were the challenges she faced?
  • What happened to her after the war?
  • How might her experience have compared with other women of a similar age and background who did not directly participate in the war effort?
  • What were the constraints and possibilities for women prior to World War I? (Consider family life, employment, education, the vote, and travel.)
  • How did society’s perception of women change in the aftermath of WWI?


Task No. 2

Florence Elizabeth Holloway

Item 05: Florence Holloway Nurses Certificate, April 1907
Item 04: Photograph of Florence Elizabeth Holloway, ca. 1908
Item 06: Florence Holloway Obstetric Nursing certificate, 18 February 1908
Item 08: Florence Holloway birth certificate, 6 May 1910
Item 03: Florence Holloway scrapbook album, ca. 1914-1942
Item 07: Florence Holloway photographs, ca. 1929-1930
Item 01: Florence Holloway diary, 1 September 1917-31 October 1918

Florence Elizabeth Holloway, born in Wagga Wagga in 1874, and enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service as an unmarried woman on 27 August 1917, at the age of 43. She left Sydney on 15 September 1917 on the HMAT Ayrshire A33, served as a nurse in England and Egypt, and was discharged on 16 March 1920.

The Library’s collection includes her diary from 1 September 1917 to 31 October 1918, nursing certificate, photographs, obstetric nursing certificate, birth certificate and her scrapbook album (from around 1914 to 1942).

Task No. 3

Anne Donnell

Series 01: Anne Donnell circular letters, 25 May 1915 - 8 July 1918
Series 02: Anne Donnell diary, 29 December 1917 - 31 January 1919

South Australian Anne Donnell, a nursing sister with the 3rd Australian General Hospital, embarked for England, and thence Alexandria, on 20 May 1915. She began work at the field hospital at Lemnos on 12 October 1915. Returning to Egypt in January 1916 she worked at the Abbassia Barracks in Cairo until October, when she travelled to England and the Kitchener War Hospital in Brighton. From May 1917 Sister Anne Donnell worked in hospitals in France, until January 1918 when she became ill and was sent to convalesce in England. After her recovery, Anne worked at the No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield Park in Middlesex. She embarked for Australia on 19 January 1919.

The Library holds one of her diaries (29 December 1917 - 31 January 1919) and a series of letters (25 May 1915 - 8 July 1918) she wrote to her friends in Australia, describing the war, her work in military hospitals and her stays in Egypt, England and France. 

Task No. 4

Nora Fletcher

Nora Kathleen Fletcher photographs, 1915-1919
Fletcher papers, 1914-1948 / Nora Kathleen Fletcher
Item 01: Royal Red Cross 1915 / Nora Kathleen Fletcher collection
Item 02: Serving Sister, The most venerable order of St. John of Jerusalem, 1916 / Nora Kathleen Fletcher collection
Item 03: Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise / Nora Kathleen Fletcher collection
Item 04: Commander of the British Empire 1919 with purple ribbon / Nora Kathleen Fletcher collection
Item 05: Set of medals of Nora Kathleen Fletcher 1914-1919

Nora Fletcher was born in 1880 in Woollahra. She trained as a nurse, graduating from Coast Hospital in 1906. Nora left Sydney to work in England, and during the war served with the Joint War Committee as Principal Matron in France. Nora obtained several awards for her service. 

In the Library’s collections are notes, congratulatory letters, references and passports belonging to Nora, as well as some of her awards and photographs. 

Task No. 5

Britomarte James

James war reminiscences, August 1914-August 1918 / Mrs Britomarte James

Britomarte James of Melbourne, Victoria, was the mother of two soldiers serving in the Australian Army. Britomarte went to England on 27 September 1916 when her eldest son was wounded. There she joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) on its formation, and was a Unit Administrator in Nottingham, England and Boulogne in France. In May 1918 she returned to England, arranged her discharge and went back to Australia, arriving in Melbourne 22 August 1918.

Britomarte James’ journal, in the collections of the Library, describes her trip to London, England, in wartime, social gatherings, her work in the WAAC and air raids.

Task No. 6

Gladys Sandford

Item 01: Gladys Sandford papers, ca. 1891-1925

Gladys Sandford, 1891-1971, was born in Australia and educated in New Zealand. She was the first woman in New Zealand to gain an air pilot's licence (No. 18) but did not pursue Aviation as a career. When her husband enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1914, she offered her services as a motor driver, but was turned down. Gladys paid her own passage, sailed to Egypt with the Volunteer Sisterhood, and worked as a driver at the Ghaza hospital. Reaching England, she was engaged as a driver by the Motor Transport Section of the N.Z.E.F. on 30 May 1917. Gladys rose to be head lady driver, but contracted influenza and was discharged on 19 January 1919. She was the only woman eligible for membership in the NZ Returned Soldiers Association. In 1920 she was appointed M.B.E. Her husband, who had won the Military Cross, had died of wounds in 1918. In 1927, Gladys and Stella Christie crossed Australia in an Essex sedan, driving from Sydney to Adelaide then , Adelaide, Darwin and back to Sydney. A total of 17 600km.

The State Library holds a set of personal papers belonging to Gladys, including letters, certificates and a photograph. 

Task No. 7

Edith Florence Avenell

Queenie: letters from a Queensland army nurse 1915-1917, being a transcription by Pat Richardson of her aunt Edith Florence Avenell's letters

Edith Avenell, 1890-1936, was born in Gympie, Queensland, and enlisted in the A.I.F. as a nurse at the age of 25, on 14 June 1915. Edith embarked with the No. 1 Australian General Hospital unit from Sydney, New South Wales on board SS Mooltan on 15 May 1915 and was detailed for transport duty. She nursed at No. 13 Hospital in Boulogne, France, and the No. 2 Australian Auxillary General Hospital in Southall, England. Edith returned to Australia on 21 July 1917, and died on 23 October 1936.

The Library holds a transcribed collection of her letters, documenting her time abroad.