I visited and used a lot of different sources throughout this project as I was less familiar with the area and person than I was last year. I came across many different highly useful sources, but some were particularly helpful. I have linked and discussed these ones below.
First and foremost, you may remember that I have been utilising a book called Elsie and Mairi Go to War that I got from the library on our field trip at the beginning of the project. I was very fortunate to find this book in my quick research on different possible books for my project prior to our field trip as it is an all inclusive biography of both or these two phenomenal women. The book includes a significant amount of background information on the childhoods of the two ladies as well as then some early and young life information on Elsie as she was many years older than Mairi. There is then multiple chapters on different parts of their wartime experiences. The author tries to base the book’s content on, and largely use, Elsie and Mairi’s very own diaries from during the war. She incorporates many quotes and even entire sections from their journals making the book very first-hand and valid. The book also includes some closing information on the two’s lives following the war, and ends with a very valuable section on useful resources that can be publicly accessed about Elsie and Mairi. Additionally, I used this book to access the author for my interview, who specifically notes in the back of her book that she wants to help and guide readers in learning more about these two remarkable women and their lives. If you wish to learn more about Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, then this book is, without a doubt, the place to start.
The next source that I will mention I found mentioned in the book Elsie and Mairi Go to War itself! In her book, Diane Atkinson mentions two interviews done with Mairi Chisholm in the late 1960s and early ’70s, which are now stored at the Imperial War Museum. I was extremely excited when I was able to find these myself online on the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) website and was ecstatic when I listened to them for the first time. I was so amazed by the fact that I was actually listening to my eminent person, who was herself on the front lines in the First World War tending to endless wounded with her friend Elsie. I listened to all four parts of the interview (“reels” as they are called) while preparing for my presentation. As you go through the reels she is asked about different parts of her wartime life from leading up to the war to her and Elsie’s relationship following it. What I particularly found useful from this resource was all the little details and stories that she talked about that you can’t find in a book or on a website. This helped me to further understand Mairi’s emotions towards the events she participated in, what type of person she was, and also, of course, what her accent sounded like. I also found these very useful as I am not one for huge amounts of reading, and so hearing Mairi talk about her experiences herself was not only unbelievable but also efficient as I could work on other parts of my project at the same time! You can find these interviews here and I would suggest checking them out if you would love to be thrown back in history yourself!
One of the first websites I came across, was a comprehensive overview of what Elsie and Mairi did and how. It includes many images of where they worked and a map showing their three different posts in Pervyse where they worked at and retreated to at various points in the war. The article also talks about how they became so famous during the war and what exactly they did to gain the support they needed to run their stations. I thought this was a valid source as it was on the BBC’s website and is also linked through the author to Belgium and the region itself with details of the village now and then.
Of course I also visited trusty Wikipedia for information on all of my eminent person Mairi Chisholm, her partner in action Elsie Knocker, and my interviewee Diane Atkinson. These visits gave me some good background information on all of them and were especially helpful in covering all the basics of info when I was trying to decide which of the two to do for my project.
Throughout my research I also came across multiple articles on the two women with the theme of sexism and gender roles in the First World War. One of these, linked here, which also talks about many other women involved in the war, highlights the remarkable work that these women managed to complete in times of horror and struggle even when the odds were against them specifically. It gives brief yet amazing stories of many women who were heroines and countless different tasks and duties during the wartime. This site would also be useful if you were looking for a women to study in this field.
One site was of particular value in reading as the author obviously cares a lot about the acknowledgement of Elsie and Mairi’s work. It talks about the book on the two itself but in doing so also contains many details of everyday tasks that outline what life was like for the two in their beaten down cellar house and village. This article gives readers a real reason to understand how remarkable these two women were and how truly outstanding not only their care to the soldiers was, but their care to themselves and their safety as well.
In the final days leading up to my presentation and learning centre, I wanted to make sure I really knew my stuff about what life was like during the war and the conditions that their post would have been in when they were doing all their work. In attempt to achieve this I was sifting through many different articles and also trying to find some videos about the two nurses, and I may have gotten a little distracted. I ended up watching roughly the last 45 minutes or so of the movie Passchendale, which can we say, is a fairly heart-wrenching experience. The movie follows the story of a nurse, her boyfriend, and her brother leading in to them all crossing paths with each other in one of the most famous battles of the First World War. I won’t spill the ending, but it is a very raw and painful experience to see what so many soldiers, nurses, and other people went through because of the war. However, this movie did not solely take up my time in the sense of watching a movie, it also helped me visually see and get a picture of this reality of what life was like and what Mairi Chisholm, and her partner, must have seen on the day-to-day. I can’t imagine how they went through it all with so much strength and held their faith when everyone around them was losing theirs. Below I have linked the movie, feel free to check it out, it came out fairly recently in only 2008 and is also a very popular film. The battle itself involved many nations, including our very own Canada, and remains one of the most horrific in history to this day.
Lastly, this source was one of my favourites to read and has an all-happy mood to it. This article is one of the featured pages on Diane Atkinson’s author website and tells of the celebration of the unveiling of the statue of Mairi and Elsie and their wartime dog Shot in Pervyse, that Diane was in large part the cause of. This unveiling marked a huge point in recognition of these two women and shows that they are just as heroic, relevant, and eminent as the many other men, and women, who have had similar memorial figures presented. Something very cool was that members of Mairi’s family were in fact in attendance at the event, certainly an honour to see such a tribute being given to their family member. This was a great article to read and showed how after all the hard work Diane and a reader of the book together had done, had gotten the proper recognition created for its rightful owners.
Through all of these different sources I got a very full look at Mairi Chisholm’s story from before, during, and after the war, and what it took to do exactly what she did. I felt honoured and privileged while researching to be learning about such an amazing person and all she had done to help others, and I just wanted to soak up as much information as I could. I think these resources gave me a good understanding of what Mairi and Elsie did, but there will always be many things that I don’t and can’t know. Nonetheless, I hope to be able to continue learning more about these two women and also the First World War in the future as it is key part of our history, and something that we cannot forget.