Top 11 Books: Women in the First World War

There are probably books on any First World War subject you can think of, but there's a surprisingly small body of material devoted to women within the conflict. However, the number of relevant titles is swiftly growing, an inevitable consequence of the prominent and vital roles women performed. We have articles on Women in World War 1 and Women and Work in World War 1.

01
of 11

Women and the First World War by Susan Grayzel

This textbook from Longman covers far more of the world than is usual, examining the role women played in the war - and the role the war played on women - in Europe, North America, Asia, Australasia and Africa, although Europe and non-European English speaking countries dominate. The content is largely introductory, making this is an excellent beginner's book.

Too many English language books focus on British women, but Ute Daniel has focused on the German experience in this important book. It’s a translation, and a good price considering what specialist works like this often go for.

  More »

This is an excellent companion to The War from Within above, also in the Legacy of the Great War series, which focuses on the French experience. There’s a broad coverage and it’s again an affordable price.

  More »

This book deserves a better title, because it isn’t limited to Britain’s Tommies. Instead Shipton looks at women on the front lines from across the countries and the fronts, from the already well known like Flora Sandes to the deserving to be well known.

  More »

05
of 11

The Virago Book of Women and the Great War ed. Joyce Marlow

This superb compilation of women's writing from the Great War is both deep and diverse, representing numerous occupations, viewpoints, social classes and writers from many of the belligerents, including previously untranslated German material; support is given by solid notation.
Everyone knows that the First World War led to women acquiring greater freedom and gaining a role in industry? Not necessarily! Deborah Thom's revisionist text tackles the myths and facts about women and the conflict, partly by examining life before 1914 and concluding that women already had a noticeable industrial role
07
of 11

Women's Writing on the First World War ed. Agnes Cardinal et al

The women in question were contemporaries of the war, and the writing is represented by seventy selections from books, letters, diaries and essays. There may be a greater emphasis on English speaking - and therefore either British or American - women, but this isn't enough to spoil an otherwise wide-ranging and skillfully ordered work with numerous emotive moments.

08
of 11

In Uncle Sam's Service 1917-1919 ed. Susan Zeiger

Although clearly specialised in subject matter, this is an important book for anyone interested in American women and their involvement in World War One, including the 16,000 who served abroad. Zeiger's work ranges across all spheres of life and involvement, blending insights from various historical disciplines - including political, cultural and gender - to produce a revealing book.
Thanks mainly to her own research and discoveries, Catherine Reilly has assembled a fine selection of poetry written during the First World War. As with any anthology, not everything will be to your taste, but the content should be integral to any study of WW1 poets.
This collection of essays contains several of direct relevance to students of the First World War, and many more for anyone who wishes to pursue the theme of women in conflict. The standard of writing is highly and wholly academic and the material is more specialised than previous picks, but students will almost certainly want to borrow this rather than buy it.
I have yet to see this book, but it's use of oral history is fascinating: purchasers receive, not just a volume detailing the growing involvement of women in Britain's twentieth century war-efforts, but a CD containing an hour of eyewitness testimony, recorded during interviews with women 'who were there'. I don't know how much relates to the Great War, but it's certainly worth considering.