This Small Army of Women
288 pages, 6 x 9
39 b&w photos, 2 charts, 10 tables
Release Date:15 Jan 2018
Release Date:21 May 2017
Release Date:01 May 2017
Release Date:07 Jun 2017

This Small Army of Women

Canadian Volunteer Nurses and the First World War

UBC Press

With her soft linen head scarf and white apron emblazoned with a red cross, the Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse, or VAD, has become a romantic emblem of the First World War. This Small Army of Women draws on letters, diaries, and interviews to tell the forgotten story of the nearly two thousand women from Canada and Newfoundland who volunteered to “do their bit” at home and overseas.

Middle-class and well-educated but largely untrained, VADs were excluded from Canadian military hospitals overseas (the realm of the professional nurse) but helped solve Britain’s nursing deficit and filled gaps in Canada’s domestic nursing ranks. Although their willingness to take up unpaid work for the sake of home and country challenged the professional aspirations of qualified nurses and conformed with traditional notions of women as caregivers, Linda Quiney argues that their dedication and service also broadened the debate about who could be a nurse.

This richly illustrated history of the VADs and their struggle to secure a place at their brothers’ bedsides reveals much about women’s contributions to the war effort, the tensions between amateur and professional nurses, and women’s evolving role outside the home.

This Small Army of Women will appeal to anyone interested in nursing history, women’s history, Canadian history, and military history.

Linda J Quiney’s This Small Army of Women documents the Canadian and Newfoundland volunteer nurses in WW1. The book is an interesting mix of facts, figures and analysis, interspersed with personal stories of these Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses – VADs. This Small Army of Women is another good addition to the recent scholarship on the role of medical women in the war. Great War 100 Reads
Linda Quiney has written a carefully researched, lively, and accessible book. Both historians and general readers will value its compelling story of a group of courageous women whose accomplishments have been largely neglected in histories of the First World War. Mark J. Crowley, Harvard University, Michigan War Review Studies
It is generally understood that it is men who make history in wartime. This Small Army of Women uncovers the adventures and sacrifices of a special group of women volunteers. By thoroughly exploring these women’s backgrounds, Quiney offers a more nuanced portrait of the VADs, who have long been understood as ‘well-born ladies’ wiping fevered brows, an image perpetuated by Vera Brittain’s enduring memoir. Christina Bates, curator (retired), Canadian Museum of History and author of A Cultural History of the Nurse’s Uniform
Histories of the First World War focus predominantly on men’s activities and experiences. The lives, experiences, and work of women have remained relatively invisible largely because of the lack of ‘official’ documents and records. Linda Quiney uses a unique set of sources to bring the stories of Canadian and Newfoundland women volunteers from the margins of history to the centre of the action, filling a significant gap on women, war, work, and volunteerism. Cynthia Toman, author of Sister Soldiers of the Great War: The Nurses of the Canadian Army Medical Corps
Linda J. Quiney is a historian and retired lecturer and serves as an affiliate with the Consortium for Nursing History Inquiry at the University of British Columbia.


1 This Ardent Band of Ladies: Birth of the Canadian VAD Movement

2 Enthusiastic and Anxious: Mobilizing the Voluntary Nursing Service

3 Every Woman Is a Nurse: Framing the Image of the VAD

4 No Time for Sentiment: Making a Useful Contribution

5 Saying Goodbye: Forgetting, Remembering, and Moving On



Notes; Bibliography; Index

Find what you’re looking for...

Free shipping on online orders over $40

Stay Informed

Receive the latest UBC Press news, including events, catalogues, and announcements.

Read past newsletters

Publishers Represented
UBC Press is the Canadian agent for several international publishers. Visit our Publishers Represented page to learn more.