Detail from the Report of Scottish Women's
Hospitals for Home and Foreign Service. Imperial War Museum,
Department of Printed Books: Women's Work Collection. Ref:
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Scottish Women's Hospitals
(SWH) was founded in 1914 with the financial support of the National
Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and the American Red Cross.
When war broke out in 1914 SWH founder, Dr Elsie Maud Inglis,
approached the War Office with the idea of either women-doctors
co-operating with the Royal Army Medical Corps, or women's medical
units being allowed to serve on the Western Front. The authorities were less than
helpful and it is reported that an official said to her "My
good lady, go home and sit still".
Undeterred, Scottish Women's Hospitals opened its first 200
bed Auxillary hospital at the 13th century Abbaye de Royaumont,
France, under the French Red Cross. Suffragettes Inglis, Ishobel
and Cicely Hamilton were among the team at Royaumont.
Throughout the First World War Scottish Women's Hospitals arranged
14 medical units to serve in Corsica, France, Malta, Romania,
Russia, Salonika and Serbia. They provided nurses, doctors, ambulance
drivers, cooks and orderlies.
Russia - 1916
Catalogue reference: FO395/25
During 1915 several women were captured by the Austro-German
army while running a series of field hospitals, dressing stations,
fever hospitals and clinics in Serbia on the Balkan Front. Amongst
those captured was founder and unit leader Dr Inglis. Aided by
American diplomats, the British authorities were eventually able
to secure their release.
In August 1916 the London Suffrage Society financed a group
of 80 women to support Serbian soldiers fighting in Russia. Another
leader in the suffrage movement, Evelina Haverfield, was recruited
as head of transport. A Serbian official who saw the work of
the women in Russia said "No wonder England is a great country
if the women are like that".
After the First World War the unit disbanded and their affairs
were wound up in 1922 with the remaining funds used to build
the Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland.